Broadway saw the highest number of international attendees on record during the 2018-2019 season, according to the Broadway League’s annual survey.
Last season, 14.8 million people attended Broadway shows, the highest number since the survey began in the 1984-1985 season, with international tourists making up 2.8 million of those admissions. Broadway marketers say the numbers align with an overall increase in tourism to the city and the growing profile of certain Broadway shows.
In 2018, New York saw its ninth consecutive year of growth in tourism, with 65.2 million visitors, comprised of 13.5 million international visitors, according to statistics compiled by NYC & Company, the city’s marketing and tourism agency. The number of international visitors grew 3.4% from the previous year, despite headwinds including economic and political pressures. Statistics for 2019 have not yet been released.
Shelby Ladd, a managing director at SpotCo, said Broadway marketers have been working to convert more of those international attendees into theatergoers, as reflected in the League’s numbers.
As more tourists visit the city, the profile of Broadway has also been growing, thanks to well-known brands such as Harry Potter and “Mean Girls” being adapted into shows and mega-hits such as “Hamilton” gaining international press and recognition, said Jeremy Kraus, vice president of client services at Situation.
The survey was conducted at 49 different Broadway productions from June 2018 through May 2019. The League distributed audience questionnaires to attendees at the shows, with 8,972 of 17,400 returned.
Attendees were also buying tickets further ahead of time than in previous season, making purchases an average of 47 days ahead of time, four days earlier than the previous season’s record. This is atypical consumer behavior, which Kraus again attributes to the growing profile of Broadway and the few sold-out shows. And it also speaks to the consumer view of Broadway as a bucket list event, according to Ladd.
“For most people, Broadway is still a luxury good,” Ladd said.
The average ticket price across respondents during the 2018-2019 season was $145.60, according to the survey. The average annual household income was $261,200.
Broadway audiences were still largely white, with white attendees accounting for 74% of theater admissions. The survey notes that the number of non-white theatergoers also reached a record high, at 3.8 million or 26% of all admissions, but only as overall attendance also reached new highs. The average age theatergoing age remained around 42.3 years old.
Of all theater admissions, a small but mighty group of theater fans attended 15 or more performances in the season. These theatergoers comprised just 4.7% of all theatergoers, but made up 28% of all theater visits in the survey.
SpotCo estimates that there are 700,000 to 800,000 theater multi-buyers worldwide who see more than five shows a year. These theatergoers are vital to the success of Broadway shows as they typically buy tickets early and then tell friends about it, which can help a show gain needed early traction.
“When Broadway talks about the community aspect, these people are the heart,” Ladd said.