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Broadway season on track for a record $1.27B in sales

“Aladdin,” with Adam Jacobs in the title role,

“Aladdin,” with Adam Jacobs in the title role, is one of several blockbuster musicals, along with “Les Miserables” and “Beautiful,” that broke the $1 million milestone last week. Credit: Deen van Meer

Broadway producers are feeling flush as they go into the holiday weekend, statistically the last lap of the 2013-2014 season. If attendance continues as expected, Broadway will finish with a record gross of $1.27 billion, up 11.2 percent from last year.

Grosses reflect soaring ticket prices (average $104 compared with last season's $98), plus the explosion of so-called premium seats that often sell for more than $400.

More meaningful to the health of the commercial theater is the rebounding attendance. After a drop of 6.2 percent last season and 2 percent the previous year, attendance will probably go up 5.2 percent to about 12.2 million when the final figures from the Broadway League are released next week.

Despite the bitter winter and no clear favorites heading into the June 8 Tony Awards, there were 36 shows running at the end of last week, compared with just 28 last year at this time. Surprising even Broadway veterans, the increase has been fueled by smash productions of Shakespeare, Pinter and revivals of other classics.

"It has been a very, very exciting growth," says Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the league, the organization of producers and theater owners that supplies the statistics. "Even with the god-awful winter, the worst we've had in a long time, we are rebounding."

There has been no sure-thing blockbuster musical, though "Aladdin," "Beautiful" and the revival of "Les Miserables" all broke well over the $1 million milestone last week, as did two nonmusicals -- "A Raisin in the Sun," starring Denzel Washington, and "All the Way," starring Bryan Cranston. These join last year's million-dollar club members, "Kinky Boots" and "Motown the Musical," and the long-running "Wicked," "The Book of Mormon" and "The Lion King."

St. Martin points to the wide range of offerings, adding, "There really is something for anybody of any age this season. We must be finding shows that are finding audiences."

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