It’s a sign of troubled times when the best offerings on The Great White Way are struggling to make a go of it at the box office. Up until this past week, Broadway ticket sales seemed to be flourishing in spite of the economy’s aches and pains. Now, the prospects of a looming recession are beginning to seep onto the stage.
A case in point is the much-heralded Equus by Peter Shaffer playing at the Broadhurst Theatre. Tony-winner Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe of “Harry Potter” fame bring great name recognition and a young adoring crowd. The theater has a capacity of 9,648, but in this, only its third week, it played to just 7,292 patrons or 75 percent of capacity. It earned less this past week than the week before: about $705,000 compared to $741,000. It is now advertising via e-mail and a special code that through November 20 ticket buyers can get orchestra and mezzanine seats for prices ranging from $56.50 to $66.50.
There are always Web sites and discount offers for bargain tickets for Broadway shows, because ticket brokers will try to take advantage of the opportunity to move tickets for a particular show when it’s not doing so well. But, when a play with a terrific script or book, a great cast, a well-known lead or two, great venue and solid reviews is in danger of not breaking even, there is cause for some concern.
As reported in the New York Post, three popular shows, Hairspray Spring Awakening and Monty Python’s Spamalot, are preparing to close in the next few months, and other productions are beginning to take defensive measures.
For instance, Shrek, opening to previews at the Broadway Theatre November 8, is already offering 40 percent off a variety of seats for a limited time via e-mail.
“We are in a very, very serious situation,” theater producer James Freydberg told the Post. “We have lost the New York audience and have become dependent on foreign tourists. But their currencies are weakening and their economies are in very bad shape. That is going to affect us.”