David Byrne brought a touch of his wild, wild life to Broadway last week (feel free to come up with your own Talking Heads reference), playing the first three previews of his American Utopia at the Hudson Theatre, nearly selling out and scoring one of the strongest average ticket prices among the recent raft of theater district newcomers.
David Byrne’s American Utopia, in which the former Talking Heads frontman fronts an ensemble of 11 musical artists from around the world, grossed $395,604, about 86% of the Hudson tenant’s potential for three performances, filling all but a barely noticeable 29 seats for a 99% of capacity total.
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Perhaps most promising for the production, though, was the average ticket price: $142, a figure on par with The Lion King‘s average and a few bucks pricier than the average for Ain’t Too Proud, the Temptations bio-jukeboxer that’s proven to be one of last season’s strongest commercial arrivals.
With an opening night of Oct. 20, the Byrne musical – choreographed by Annie-B Parson, with Alex Timbers listed as a production consultant in the absence of a credited director – arrives as the Broadway fall season kicks into gear, with three productions opening last week and six (including Byrne’s) in previews. Of the previewing shows, American Utopia boasted the highest (by far) average ticket price, with only the buzzy Freestyle Love Supreme‘s $106 coming near (and that from an opening week that saw plenty of opening night comps and press freebies.
In all, Broadway’s 33 current productions grossed $30,098,714 for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 6, an almost invisible, just-shy-of 1% increase over the previous week. Total attendance was 261,793, a bump of about the same percentage.
Perhaps not so incidentally, American Utopia also brings the current number of recently arrived Broadway shows with Timbers’ involvement to three. He directed the smash Moulin Rouge! and the surprisingly sturdy Beetlejuice (surprising because of some very tepid reviews from its pre-Broadway engagement in Washington D.C., and its Tony shut out – no wins for eight nominations). Last week, the two shows grossed, respectively, $2.2M and $925,658.
As for other newcomers, last week was a mixed bag. Of the openers, the LBJ play The Great Society starring Brian Cox at the subscription-heavy Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater filled about 67% of available seats, with a $382,785 gross only 32% of potential, low even considering the discount subscription tickets and opening week comps.
Freestyle Love Supreme, the improvisational rap & comedy performance created in 2004 by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail and Anthony Veneziale, was strong at the Booth, critically blessed and grossing $637,561; and Slave Play, an altogether tougher sell at the Golden. Good reviews and few empty seats (94% of capacity) were promising, but, again even with comps, a $352,873 gross (42% of potential) kept Jeremy O. Harris’ explosive comedy in the wait-and-see category.
Sharing the same too-early-to-tell turf were Linda Vista at the Hayes, opening Oct. 10; The Lightning Thief at the Longacre, opening Oct. 16; and The Sound Inside at Studio 54, opening Oct. 17. The Inheritance at the Barrymore was still playing a shortened week, taking $271,488 for five previews; opening night is Nov. 17.
Season to date, Broadway has grossed $609,720,189, down about 8% year to year. Total attendance to date is 5,080,351, off about 2% from last season at this time.
All figures courtesy of the trade group Broadway League.