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Broadway attendance hits record 12 million

More than half of tickets purchased by tourists

Broadway sold a record 12 million tickets in the 2005-2006 season, a rise of 4.1 percent from the previous year, with more than half the seats taken by tourists, according to statistics released Wednesday.

Reporting on New York’s theater results in the 12 months ending May 28, 2006, the League of American Theatres and Producers said it was the first time the Broadway attendance tally had crossed the 12 million mark.

Box office grosses rose 12 percent to $861.6 million, also a record, the League said. The number of seats sold was 12,003,148 while the percentage of seats filled hit an all-time high of 81.6 percent.

“A main contributor to these increases was strong attendance by tourists,” it said in a statement, adding that domestic tourists accounted for more than 5 million tickets and international visitors, more than 1.3 million.

Tourism fell sharply after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 but has been recovering recently.

“Although the strong business results continue to underline Broadway’s revenue stakes in New York, increasing cost pressures have resulted in no increase in the number of shows making a profit,” said Jed Bernstein, President of The League of American Theatres and Producers.

“Broadway is still a high-risk investment,” he said.

Long-running hits such as “Mamma Mia,” “The Lion King” and ”The Phantom of the Opera” continue to draw near-capacity audiences while a string of high-profile new shows closed early after being savaged by critics and spurned by audiences.

Among the notable flops of the year were “Lennon,” a musical about the late Beatle John Lennon which lasted just six weeks, and the vampire musical “Lestat” with music by Elton John which closed last weekend only a month after opening.

Two shows tipped to endure are “The Drowsy Chaperone,” an affectionate parody of 1920s musicals, and “Jersey Boys,” the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Both are nominated for a string of Tony Awards, Broadway’s top honors, which are due to be presented on June 11.