Bette Midler’s Absence Wallops Broadway Box Office
Lee Seymour , CONTRIBUTOR
JUL 6, 2017
DeBroadway went to the beach with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over what for many was the Independence Day weekend, as patrons stayed away in droves following the previous week’s banner stand. Ticket sales fell 9 percent over the week before, with the most dramatic plunge hitting the Bette Midler-free Hello, Dolly! With the Tony-winning star on vacation, ticket sales plummeted $1.37 million to $936,603 for eight performances despite great word-of-mouth for replacement Dolly Levi, Donna Murphy. Attendance fell as well, to 76 percent of capacity, with patrons paying on average $106.31 per ticket. (Midler returns July 12.)
Bette Midler has spent this Broadway season shattering records left and right in the Tony-winning revival of Hello, Dolly!. It’s only fitting that she add another to her belt: causing the biggest week-to-week drop in grosses for any show in 2017.
On the first of her two weeks planned vacation, Dolly’s numbers fell a whopping 60%, from $2.3 million to $936k. Though the slide seems rough, it was predicted and likely budgeted for, and simply goes to prove Bette is an unbeatable box office draw.
Not that it was really in question. The show has broken the house record at the Shubert theater several times since opening in April, and has become the highest-grossing show ever in Shubert history. That certainly seems to merit a couple weeks vacay.
July 4th is not traditionally a strong frame for Broadway, regardless of Bette’s presence. Grosses dropped 9.4% across the board to $31.9 million, a dip that mirrors past years. The majority of shows posted significant five-figure decreases, and the closure of another big grossing revival, Sunset Boulevard, sucked even more from the bottom line.
The other big tumble was Indecent, which slid almost $300k. Sales rocketed up last week in anticipation of its closing, when it was extended at the last minute by producer Daryl Roth for another six weeks. As predicted, the spike appears to be temporary. The show is gorgeous (and a surprise Tony winner) but seems a tough rec for summer tourists.
Present Laughter and The Little Foxes both closed on a high note, with the best weeks of their limited runs at $910k and $609k. The two revivals took home Tony gold, too, for performers Kevin Kline and Cynthia Nixon, and Foxes costume designer Jane Greenwood, who finally won after a record twenty-one nominations. And while Present Laughter didn’t recoup its costs, it remained the highest-grossing play on Broadway each week save one, after Oslo won Best Play and briefly dethroned it.
Speaking of, Oslo is doing just fine. This week it even outgrossed Best Musical nominee Groundhog Day, taking a solid $758k. It’s rare that star-free plays of any kind outgross big musicals – Groundhog’s investors should brace themselves.
Former Oslo rival A Doll’s House, Part 2 appears to have stalled after a valiant effort to unseat the eventual champ, dropping another $28k this week. Also-ran The Play That Goes Wrong is hanging in there, taking over half its potential gross, which is well above cost breakeven for a show its size. That also puts it (and Doll’s House) above bigger shows, including the ailing revivals of Cats and Miss Saigon, and newer musicals On Your Feet! and War Paint.
Looking ahead, Midler’s record fall may be broken next week by Josh Groban. This marked his final frame in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812, pushing coffers to their brink at $1.4 million for 106% of its listed potential. Expect a sizable drop when Groban departs – the exact size of which will likely determine whether the show remains open through the end of the year.
For Best Musical winner Dear Evan Hansen, that question will not be asked for quite some time. Possibly years. The show jumped another $55k this week, breaking its own record at the Music Box theater with $1.34 million. If it hasn’t turned a profit yet, it’s about to.