UPDATE: The Update on Broadway’s Recovery from The Pandemic.

A few weeks ago we closed the books on a historic season.  

It was the first FULL season since the industry-upending pandemic that wasn’t interrupted.

No shutdown.  No Delta.  No Omicron.  No mid-season Tony Awards.  

A full-on, the-way-it-was before, Broadway season.

Or was it?

That’s what I wanted to find out.  

How is Broadway’s recovery from the pandemic going?  

To compare apple trees to apple trees (RIP Sheldon Harnick), I went back to the last time things were, ahem, normal.  That’d be the 2018-2019 season.  Four years ago.  (I mean, it’s nuts – kids have graduated from college since this thing started.)

Here’s what it looked like back when some kids were freshmen (courtesy of the The Broadway League):


Playing weeks:  1,737

Total Attendance:  14,768,254

Total Gross:  $1,829,312,140

Total # of New Shows:  38

There’s our benchmark.  Our control group.   

Now let’s look at last season’s stats:


Playing weeks:  1,474 

Total Attendance:  12,283,399

Total Gross:  $1,577,586,897

Total # of New Shows:  40

And now the difference between the two:

+/- FROM 2018-19

Playing weeks:  DOWN 15.14% 

Total Attendance:  DOWN 16.83%

Total Gross:  DOWN 13.76%

Total # of New Shows:  UP 5.26%

That’s a lot of negative, right?

But hold on a second – because that negative ain’t necessarily so.  

We grossed less.  And fewer people saw shows.   Sounds like bad news. 

And yes, that isn’t the trend that anyone likes. 

But, there was a close relationship between the amount that we’re down in each category AND the number of playing weeks. 

And, if there had been more playing weeks, the grosses and attendance would have been higher!  

How much higher is anyone’s guess.  Would we have eclipsed the ’18-19 numbers?  I’d bet no.  There are still people who haven’t returned to the habit of theatergoing.  

So while we’re down, we’re not down as much as it looks.  And, since the number of new shows went up by 5% – what it looks like we lost are some of those long-runners. 

In fact, if we take the total gross and divide it by the number of playing weeks in 2018-19 we get:

$1,053,144.58 per playing week.

In 2022-23, it was:  

$1,070,276.05 per playing week. 

Or UP 1.63%.

Yep, the average gross went up per playing week by a fraction. (Thanks, Phantom!)

That would be sensational news . . . except for one thing . . . inflation.  I’m seeing operating expenses on shows 10% higher at least.  

What’s the takeaway?

It’s a mixed bag.  We’ve made sensational progress and bounced back faster than anyone anticipated.  (Click here to see the prediction I made about the recovery in 2020!)

But the increased costs are putting a pressure on the economic viability of new shows, which shows up in the average per playing week.  And also in the reduced number of playing weeks last year – which means shows closed faster than they used to.

We’re not out of the pandemically-altered woods just yet.  But we will be, provided we continue to produce great shows that people want to see . . . and that the skyrocketing costs as a result of the pandemic come down to earth.

– – – – –

Next week, I’m going to talk about tours . . . and why they should get out faster than they have been.

Sign up here so you don’t miss it. 

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.