New Yorkers Making Up Bigger Portion of Broadway Audience

Posted January 10, 2018 3:55 p.m. EST

NEW YORK — For years, it has been a truism of the Broadway economy: The vast majority of tickets are purchased by visitors from outside New York City.

But the last theater season saw a higher percentage of New Yorkers attending Broadway shows than at any time during the last 15 years, according to an annual demographic report released Tuesday by the Broadway League.

New Yorkers are still a minority among Broadway patrons, making up just 21.5 percent of the audiences during the season that ended last May, the League said. But that percentage has been rising for three years in a row, contributing to a boom in Broadway audiences.

There are a variety of possible explanations for the rise in interest among New Yorkers. It could be that, as the overall popularity of musical theater rebounds, cynical urbanites are reconsidering the art form.

“We’re making more things that more people like — a plethora of musicals of every stripe,” said Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer of “Hamilton.”

“Hamilton” itself is an obvious factor — it became so much a part of the cultural conversation that it refocused attention on Broadway. New York is also home to a lot of wealth — a possible factor given that Broadway tickets are often expensive.

And it may be that rising quality and a more diverse array of shows has broken through to some New Yorkers who thought they no longer had room for Broadway in their entertainment diets.

“There’s a better buzz around Broadway as not a stale old-timey thing,” said Emily Hammerman, a vice president of TodayTix, a theater ticketing app. “When you look at ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ or ‘Hamilton’ or ‘Fun Home,’ these became major award winners, but they were not brand names before they existed on Broadway, so you had to be local and in the know to know that this was the next big thing.”

The uptick of New Yorkers comes as Broadway is thriving — the last season was the third in a row with more than 13 million patrons, and box office revenue was a record $1.4 billion. In addition to those from New York City, 18 percent of the audience was from New York’s suburbs, 46 percent from elsewhere in the U.S., and 15 percent from another country.

Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League, said “the return of New Yorkers” is important because, she said, an overreliance on tourists had made the industry more vulnerable to fluctuations in visitorship to the city.

“Tourism is always going to be a factor, but there are times when tourism is up and tourism is down,” she said. “The core of our business is our local and suburban theatergoers.”

Among the other highlights of the audience demographics report, which is based on surveys distributed in theaters: The Broadway audience remains predominantly white (77 percent) and female (66 percent), as well as affluent (average annual household income of $194,940) and educated (80 percent of those over 25 were college graduates and 39 percent had a graduate degree).

The Broadway audience is older than the American population — the average age of theatergoers was 41.7 years old. But League officials saw hope in a growing number of younger patrons — 25 percent of their respondents were under 25 years old.