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The Internets and Tourists Keep Broadway Alive, Report Shows

An annual report by The Broadway League indicates the increasing impact of social media on ticket sales. logo

Your average Broadway theatergoer is a well-educated, wealthy, middle-aged white woman, visiting the city from Not-New-York-City, according to a demographics report released today by The Broadway League. It's shocking. We know.

But in not-as-obvious news, the fifteenth annual report shows that the thoughts expressed by regular folks on Facebook increasingly trump the opinions of fancy newspaper critics when it comes to affecting ticket sales. It's a sign o' the times, when the average audience age is 43.5, down a half a year from 2010. (Perhaps due to the Disney-musical onslaught that has been dominating Broadway for over a decade.)
Theatergoers waiting in line for tickets.
© David Gordon
The Broadway League culled this data from audience questionnaires distributed throughout the 2011-2012 Broadway season – which happened to be the strongest in Broadway's history, in terms of both attendance and grosses. The 43-page report's major takeaways: Broadway audiences are diversifying, but they are still (very) far from diverse; tourists are keeping the lights bright on Broadway; and The Internets are winning.

"Word-of-mouth was by far the most influential factor in show selection," the report states. Personal recommendations via friends' Facebook and Twitter posts encouraged roughly 48 percent of attendees to see a particular show, whereas critics' reviews in newspapers encouraged roughly 17 percent. The internet has also become the most popular ticket-buying method; 47 percent of respondents said they bought their tickets on the web.

In the 2011-2012 season, Broadway shows racked up 12.3 million admissions by 3.1 million people – the largest number of attendees for a 52-week season, according to The Broadway League's data. The majority of Broadway audiences, this season and every season, were women (67 percent), Caucasian (78 percent), affluent (with an average household income of roughly $194 thousand), and well-educated (75 percent completed college and 38 percent earned a graduate degree). Tourists purchased approximately 64 percent of all tickets, up from 62 percent last year.

In other words, if you're a Broadway-obsessed New Yorker, please thank the Midwestern woman sitting in the seat next to you for keeping the engine running. And, don't forget to sing the praises of the shows you like on your Tumblr.