Tony Awards Give Broadway a Boost

What's television exposure worth? Ask Broadway producers, whose shows grossed $13,766,975 during June 4-10, the week after the Tony Award ceremony—nearly $1.2 million more than the previous week.

PBS and CBS took turns broadcasting the three-hour Tony Awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall Sun., June 3, introducing many prospective theatregoers to the current crop of plays and musicals. Although the ceremony turned into a torrent of honors for "The Producers," the reported grosses in the wake of the telecasts show that almost all producers—not just the producers of "The Producers"—shared in the largesse.

In fact, "The Producers" increased its attendance much more modestly than many other shows, only 2.5% over the previous week. Of course, that is attributable to its phenomenal success even before the awards. It has been at, near, or over 100% of capacity almost since its first preview, and amassed the largest advance sale in history (reportedly as much as $17 million). The day after its opening it raised its ticket price to $100, and sold another $6.5 million worth of tickets in six days. By the time of the Tonys it was already the hottest ticket in town, so its precedent-setting 12 wins could only increase its already extraordinary weekly take by $24,992 (from $1,020,849 to $1,045,841). That kept it at the top of the heap, ahead of any other show on Broadway, even "The Lion King," which is in a theatre with 124 more seats (nearly 1,000 extra per week).

Of the shows with songs or scenes featured on the Tonys, "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" fared best, with business jumping by 16.2%. "A Class Act" came next, with a 12.5% increase over the previous week. However, that was not enough to save the show, which was doing dismal business: even with the double-digit jump, the houses were less than 44% full. It closed Sun., June 10.

The revival of "42nd Street," which won two Tonys including best musical revival, saw business grow by 12.1%, with total attendance at nearly 90%. The revival of "The Rocky Horror Show," while Tonyless, got an 11.5% boost in attendance after the broadcast. Yet another revival, of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," increased its audiences by 11% after winning the Tony for best revival of a play.

"Bells Are Ringing" got a 10% bump in business, while "Jane Eyre" got a 9.3% boost. Both shows needed their leading ladies to win a Tony to keep going. Without that, and with audiences at about 56% for each show, both closed that Sunday. "Follies," probably the most anticipated revival of the year, got no Tonys, but did get an increase in attendance of 7.6%. Even so, the Roundabout Theatre, which produced it, abandoned plans to extend a run past July 14.

Best play winner "Proof" saw only a bump of 8.5%, raising its average house for the week to 95.8% of capacity.

"The Full Monty," the strongest contender for a Tony sweep until "The Producers" burst on the scene, dazzled telecast audiences with its strip routine and boosted its audiences by 5.7%. While not a huge percentage jump in itself, it was enough to bring the average house to just under 95% of capacity.

"The Invention of Love," which bagged best actor and best supporting actor Tonys and was a strong contender for best play, did not do as well. Its business rose only 1.3%, to 69.5%, and its producers posted a closing notice for June 30.

Some of the biggest jumps had nothing to do with the Tonys, except for the awards' possible reminder to television audiences that Broadway shows exist. "The Music Man" got a 16.7% boost in attendance as Eric McCormack replaced Craig Bierko in the leading role (translating to an additional $95,329). Attendance at "The Dinner Party," in its final week with stars John Ritter and Henry Winkler, rose 17.1%. "Contact" rose 11%, "Annie Get Your Gun" was up 7.6%, "Beauty and the Beast" was up 7%, "Riverdance" rose 6%, and "Aida" bumped by 5%.

Not all shows increased, however. "Rent," now in its sixth year of business on Broadway, suffered a setback of 5.5%; "Fosse" lost 1%, and posted its closing notice after more than two-and-a-half years; and "The Lion King" and "Blast" each dropped less than one-third of 1%.

Certainly the most disappointing return was for "King Hedley II." After actress Viola Davis gave a searing rendition of a soliloquy from the August Wilson drama on the Tony telecast, and an equally affecting acceptance speech for her best supporting actress award, one might have thought business would dramatically improve. Instead, business fell by 7%, to 47.1% of capacity. Despite the drop in business, a press spokesperson told Back Stage the show is not closing.