Broadway Rebounds As Bette Midler Breaks Another Record

Broadway Rebounds As Bette Midler Breaks Another Record
By Lee Seymour
SEP 19, 2017


Broadway loves a good rebound, and there’s no better pick-me-up than Bette Midler.

Back from a planned vacation, the Tony winner not only survived a tumble off the stage of Hello, Dolly! but also broke the house record at the Shubert Theater for the sixth time since the show opened this spring. It grossed $2.32 million over eight performances, with the average seat going for $199.

This year Midler has been the undisputed queen of Broadway. Thanks to her clout, Dolly! racked up over $40 million in advance sales before it even opened, and went on to win the Tony for Best Musical Revival. In addition to Midler’s for Best Actress, it also garnered trophies for Best Featured Actor (Gavin Creel), and Best Costume Design (Santo Loquasto).

But this does put the show in a bind when she takes a break. Last week, and two weeks earlier this summer, grosses plummeted during her absences, with seats going for an average of just $81. Midler’s successor, fellow industry legend Bernadette Peters, will take over in 2018, but the jury is still out on whether she can command the same prices.

And while Midler led the charge, the rest of the industry was right behind. Overall sales were up $12% from last week, to $26.6 million. Almost every show posted gains from the week prior when the back-to-school doldrums hit hard.

Two shows, however, goosed the box office by taking their final bow. Both Groundhog Day and Bandstand jumped over $200,000 as fans came out to send them off, but it was bittersweet for a pair of musicals that never found enough of an audience to keep them running. They both closed without recouping their capitalization.

War Paint also had a solid week, jumping $106,000 after being dangerously in the red for several weeks. The cosmetics musical had a rough go at the Tonys but has avoided the fate of Bandstand and Groundhog Day. Ditto the revival of Miss Saigon, which has also been struggling but caught a break this week with an $88,000 boost. And Waitress, already having turned a profit, bounced back $103,000 after the worst week of its entire run.

Michael Moore continues to disappoint, however. After a strong start, his Trump-themed solo chow Terms Of My Surrender has sunk down the board; even with a small $16,000 boost this week it’s still taking less than 40% of its potential. The President himself may be a ratings boon, but that quality doesn’t appear to be transitive.

Otherwise business was booming. Hamilton stayed on top with $2.9 million, followed by Dolly! and The Lion King ($1.7m), with 2017 Best Musical winner Dear Evan Hansen ($1.6m) and Wicked ($1.4m) rounding out the top five.

Just below them was Come From Away, which is proving to be anything but an also-ran at $1.2 million. The Canadian tuner has maintained a remarkably steady momentum after losing the Tony to Hansen (though its director Christopher Ashley, got his), grossing over $1m for 20 weeks straight, and will almost certainly recoup is capitalization before the year is out. Slow and steady may not win every race, but the show is proof that you don’t need an awards sweep to be both beloved and profitable.

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