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What the data about Broadway’s January show closings actually illustrates

At the end of Broadway's first full week of 2023, five shows that had been open at the end of 2022 played their final performance. By the end of the month, 12 Broadway productions in total ended their runs.

Alex Brightman and Elizabeth Teeter in "Beetlejuice" on Broadway (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

At the end of Broadway’s first full week of 2023, five shows that had been open at the end of 2022 played their final performance. By the end of the month, 12 Broadway productions in total ended their runs. It may sound bleak, and many (from media publications to coalitions) have reported these numbers using terms like “record-breaking.” But the truth of the matter is that January closures are a part of the typical rhythm of Broadway and the number of closures this year is not record-breaking.

Of the 12 Main Stem productions that closed in January 2023, eight were limited engagements (two — “Into the Woods” and “The Piano Lesson” — extended beyond their original end dates).

Looking at the past 10 years, an average of 9.6 Broadway shows concluded in the month of January. Though 2023’s number is above average, it ties with 2017 for the most closings — 12 apiece. (Of note: In the last decade, there have been four separate years in which 11 shows wrapped up their runs in January.) The year-by-year breakdown is as follows:

Looking back an additional decade, to January 2003, six Broadway shows saw the end of their runs. This was 16 months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Thirty years ago, in January 1993, nine shows closed; and in January 1983, five shows.

These raw numbers indicate that the current year is not out of the ordinary — from the last 10 nor 30 years.

Of course, each year Broadway sees a different number of total productions running as the new year begins. As percentages go, 2023 is on the high end, but it’s not the leader.

For 2023, 34 shows were running as of Dec. 31, 2022, and 12 closed in January of 2023. This means that 35.3 percent of shows closed in the month of January. Approximately one third of Broadway productions ending their runs is significant, but not unusual.

According to the Broadway League, Broadway marked its highest-grossing and best-attended season in 2018-2019, earning approximately $1.8 billion and filling 14.77 million seats during 52 playing weeks. That season corresponds with a January that saw nine closings (26.5 percent).

The current year marks three more show closings (an additional 8.8 percent) than Broadway’s strongest year in history.

Of course, whenever shows close, it means that there are fewer offerings for prospective ticket buyers, and the grouping of productions that are closing in a short period limits those options in a concentrated way. Perhaps it’s not the closures themselves, but the speed of turnover in these theaters and a lack of new productions (which could attract attendees) that should be the focus of discussion. What can theaters and producers do to keep audiences engaged in the winter months?

The health of the industry cannot be determined by a single measure — closures, grosses or otherwise. There is no doubt that Broadway has changed dramatically since reopening in 2021 — be it COVID testing for company members, the now-regular occurrence of performance cancellations, enactment of new union contracts, changing audience demographics, limited reopening of Theater District businesses and more. The industry must adapt in numerous sectors of the business to ensure its future. But the bout of shows ending their runs is not, according to a decade of precedent, that indicator of success, or failure, in the evolution of the business.

Caitlin Hornik contributed reporting to this story.