Two months after opening to a lot of buzz and generally good reviews for its young star, Daniel Radcliffe, the Broadway equine drama Equus is barely leaving the barn.
The play, which has tried to trade on its mature themes and star’s “Harry Potter” fame, has tried email ticket promotions and student discounts to attract fans, but the efforts are proving unsuccessful.
According the latest theater statistics from The Broadway League, the show played before audiences of less than 50 percent capacity for the week ending November 23, down from about 57 percent capacity the prior week. The limited-run play, scheduled from September 25 to February 8 at the Broadhurst Theatre, has also seen its weekly gross ticket sales drop to about $425,000 from just above $495, 000.
By contrast, The Seagull, a drama at the Walter Kerr Theatre starring Kristin Scott-Thomas, opened about a week after “Equus” and will close just before Christmas but is playing before audiences at about 75 percent capacity.
The downward trend for “Equus” is not unique, however, as Broadway overall continues to feel the sting of the slumping economy.
Several once-popular productions have announced plans to close prematurely, including Hairspray, Monty Python’s Spamalot and the Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein, which had the distinction of being one of the most expensive productions in recent Broadway history.
For “Young Frankenstein,” part of the problem was over-hyped expectations of Brooks and his producing partner, Robert F.X. Sillerman, who were forced to slash exorbitant prices for tickets several months after opening.
But for other shows, the slowing economy is clearly taking a toll. According to The Broadway League, audience capacity across the board is down about 9 percentage points to about 71 percent.
“You have avid theatergoers; they’re usually burned through quickly. Tourists will see The Lion King or The Phantom of the Opera. Part-time theatergoers are affected most. If you’re in Connecticut, and you can go see The Dark Knight for $8.50, will you put everybody in a car and pay $120 for a Broadway ticket?” Spamalot producer Bill Haber told USA Today.