By GORDON COX
Penn and Teller appeared on Broadway last week — and made big money appear with them, as their new show muscled up into the Top 10 during a summer week that saw post-holiday sales rise at most productions on the boards.
“Penn & Teller on Broadway” ($1,075,289) topped $1 million in its first week of seven previews (and one opening night), powered by the wide fan base that has sustained the popular magician-skeptics throughout their TV work (such as Showtime series “Penn & Teller: Bulls–!”) and during live engagements including their long-running Vegas show, of which “On Broadway” is a variation. The six-week run in New York seems likely to continue to attract strong interest from both tourist crowds and local fans, who haven’t had a chance to see the duo perform in the area since their 1991 Off Broadway run.
Meanwhile, box office on the rest of the Street evened out following the usual Fourth of July slippage. Overall Broadway attendance only bumped up by about 1,000 people to 245,465, or 87% of total capacity, but competition for in-demand shows was more intense, as the average price paid per ticket rose almost $7 to $107.35. Cumulative sales climbed about $1.7 million to $26.4 million for 28 shows now playing.
Small theaters led to high demand for hot titles, with Tony champ “Fun Home” ($783,291, its best tally yet in its 740-seat theater) logging an average price per ticket of about $128. “The King and I” ($1,247,155), another Tony winner, hit $149 per ticket in a 1,050-seat venue. But neither of those matched longstanding faves “The Lion King” ($2,308,891), at $170 per ticket, or “The Book of Mormon” ($1,450,865), at $166.
Although it might be tough to score a cheap ticket this summer at the most high-demand shows, Broadway types like to point that plenty of titles sell a good number of tickets at lower price points, such as “Matilda” ($1,077,379) or “The Phantom of the Opera” ($914,409).
In any case, the overall week was strong enough on Broadway to fill the Top 10 with million-plus earners, with fully half of the club made up of newer openers including “An American in Paris” ($1,406,875), “Finding Neverland” ($1,126,473) and “Something Rotten!” ($1,088,662), along with “King and I” and “Penn & Teller.”
“An Act of God” ($920,623), the solo show starring Jim Parsons, continued to hold the title for top-earning play, although Tony winner “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ($890,693) and “Fish in the Dark” ($861,784) did plenty well, too.
Farther down the chart this week, “On the 20th Century” ($469,559) dipped slightly as it heads into its final week, while well-reviewed play “Hand to God” ($317,244) still struggled (despite the publicity the show grabbed in the wake of its recent cell-phone incident). New musical “Amazing Grace” ($291,315) is hoping the reviews following this week’s July 16 opening will prove strong enough to increase ticket demand.
Speaking of demand: In the coming week, look for Off Broadway buzzmagnet “Hamilton,” beginning Broadway previews July 13, to launch strong out of the gate, as the show kicks into gear with a reported advance of $27.6 million.
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