Here are some statistics:
- The average age of the Broadway theatergoer was 42.2.
- Forty-seven percent of theatergoers at musicals said a personal recommendation was the strongest factor in deciding which show to see.
- Women comprise 66.2 percent of the audience.
- International visitors accounted for 21 percent of the 12.5 million ticket-buyers, the highest ever.
- Overall, tourists bought 63 percent of all tickets for Broadway shows.
- Broadway theatergoers reported an annual household income of $195,700.
- Of theatergoers over age 25, 73 percent had completed college.
- The typical playgoer saw eight shows in the past year, compared with four for musical attendees.
- Those who saw 15 or more shows comprised 5 percent of the audience but represented 31 percent of all tickets sold.
In a news release accompanying the report, Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the league, exclaimed:
"Broadway is a national pastime! As there is more of a choice for the theatergoer than ever before, it is exciting to report that we are seeing a wider audience for Broadway. Our shows, and our audience, are more diverse than ever."
Well perhaps the Broadway audience is getting more diverse but if it's three-quarters Caucasian, largely college-educated, with a household income of nearly $200,000, I don't see how you can lay claim to being a national pastime.
Still, I'm a little hopeful that next year's figures will show some improvement.
The percentage of Hispanic theatergoers jumped from 5.7 percent to 8.6 percent in one year. Part of that could be more visitors from Spanish-speaking countries, or the success of musicals like In the Heights, which takes place in a Latino neighborhood in New York City.
Attendance by black theatergoers reached a 10-year high of 6.7 percent in the 2006-2007 season, only to drop to 2.4 percent two years later.
Now, this is my anecdotal evidence from one weekend in New York City but I noticed at Memphis, Race and waiting in the lobby at Fela! that the audiences for these shows with strong black characters seemed a lot more racially diverse than usual.
(And next spring's Broadway revival of Fences, with the box-office cachet of Oscar winner Denzel Washington, will hopefully draw theatergoers of all backgrounds.)
If Broadway truly wants to call itself a national pastime, let's hope that what I saw was part of a growing trend.