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Volume 21 No. 1
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A night off from sports? Broadway beckons

For Broadway theater producers, this year’s Super Bowl is a mixed blessing.

“We’re not expecting it to be a boon, but we’re also not expecting a drop-off,” said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League, a trade association of theater owners and producers. “Some of our regular customers are leaving New York because of the crowds expected with the game in New York, but we also expect that many of the people coming for the Super Bowl will want to see a play.”

By far, the hottest ticket on Broadway is for “The Book of Mormon,” the musical by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone that opened in March 2011. Thanks to an average ticket price of $172, “The Book of Mormon” has been grossing more than $2 million each week for eight performances in the 1,100-seat Eugene O’Neill Theatre. Ticket availability for the show throughout all of 2014 is so limited that any Super Bowl attendees hoping to snare a ticket will have to go the premium-seating route. Select premium tickets, at a cost upward of $400 per seat, are still available.

“Wicked,” which opened 10 years ago, and “Kinky Boots,” the 2013 Tony winner for best musical, are the only other Broadway plays running during Super Bowl week that consistently play to full houses.

Coinciding with the Super Bowl is what’s become a regular Broadway promotion called Broadway Week. Twenty-six Broadway plays began offering two-for-one tickets on Jan. 6 to customers who purchase seats to shows between Jan. 21 and Feb. 6. Included in the official announcement of this year’s offer — a campaign created by NYC & Co., the city’s official marketing and tourism organization — is a reference to football fans in town for Super Bowl XLVIII, encouraging them to take in a show.

At least one production is taking steps beyond the collective Broadway Week effort in hopes that Super Bowl XLVIII can be good for business. “Bronx Bombers,” the third sports-themed play by “Lombardi” and “Magic/Bird” playwright Eric Simonson, was scheduled to begin performances at Circle in the Square theater this past Friday — a date picked with football in mind.

“We knew the last week in January would be a great opportunity to showcase the play to many sports fans coming to New York for the Super Bowl,” said Tony Ponturo, the former Anheuser-Busch sports marketing chief who has teamed with Fran Kirmser for the production of each of the Simonson shows. The show debuted late last year in an off-Broadway theater before moving to Circle in the Square this month. “It’s also the week before pitchers and catchers start reporting for spring training,” Ponturo said, “so it’s the best of both worlds for us and a very unique window we think we’ll be able to take advantage of.”

Keith Urban shares the MSG calendar with the Knicks and Rangers.
Outside of the theater, there are few big entertainment events in the New York area during the Super Bowl run-up. Madison Square Garden is presenting country music star Keith Urban on Jan. 29 (tickets were still available last week) but otherwise is booked with sporting events in the week leading up to the game: four Knicks games, one Rangers game and a college basketball doubleheader (St. John’s vs. Marquette, Georgetown vs. Michigan State).

That doubleheader is on the Saturday before the Super Bowl — and precedes a Knicks home game at MSG versus Miami that night.

For its part, the NBA was mindful that the eyes of the sports and entertainment world would be on New York in scheduling LeBron James and the Heat to play the Knicks on that Saturday night.

While the Rangers will only have one game at MSG during Super Bowl week, they will be on ice nearby on two other occasions — at Yankee Stadium, as part of the NHL’s Coors Light Stadium Series. The Rangers will play the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 26 and the New York Islanders on Jan. 29.

“It’s going to be an exciting time in New York leading up to the Super Bowl, so we thought placing the Yankee Stadium games that week made a lot of sense,” said Brian Jennings, NHL executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

The first game, on a Sunday afternoon exactly one week before the Super Bowl, is sold out. (Capacity at the stadium for the hockey games is expected to be in excess of 40,000). The Rangers-Islanders game, which is on a Wednesday night, has been a tougher sell — likely because the second game, by nature, makes it less of a must-see event, and neither the Rangers or Islanders is having a strong season on the ice. More than 10,000 tickets remained available last week, but league officials still expressed confidence the game will be sold out by game time.

Among other entertainment offerings and venues during the week:

The Beacon Theatre, owned by MSG owner Cablevision, is presenting a comedy show called “The Comedy Kickoff” the night before the Super Bowl. Featuring comedians Sommore, Bruce Bruce, Arnez J, Tony Rock and Gary Owen, it is the rare event during the week that is aiming its marketing directly at the game. The promotional material for the show reads, “Before the big game, don’t miss this big night of laughs!”

Barclays Center in Brooklyn has a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert on Feb. 1 (tickets were still available last week), a Luis Collazo-Victor Ortiz welterweight boxing match on Jan. 30, and a pair of Nets games during the week.

The Prudential Center is Newark is hosting Super Bowl Media Day on Jan. 28, a Seton Hall-Butler basketball game on Jan. 29 and a UFC event on Feb. 1.

As for the Izod Center in East Rutherford, adjacent to Met Life Stadium: It is out of action until Feb. 14 because its parking areas are needed for the Super Bowl.

Staff writer John Lombardo contributed to this report.