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Broadway is the heart of New York’s famous Theater District and has quite a few secrets and records to offer. I’ve compiled an up-to-date list of the most interesting and fascinating Broadway facts that you probably didn’t know yet!
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1. New York’s Broadway shows draw nearly 15 million audience members each year.
Just to put that into perspective: That’s more than the entire population of Belgium! For some more stats, 68% of the audience is female, and 65% are tourists. Some visitors even travel to New York just for Broadway! We totally understand—seeing a show in New York’s famous theater district should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Fun fact: Broadway has still been experiencing some lingering effects of Covid-19. The 2018-2019 record of 14.7 million visitors has not yet been reached again, with the current attendance being 12.3 million. But that’s 33,700 visitors per day, so it’s still pretty sensational, right?
2. Broadway got its name from the Dutch.
Before Broadway became the famous and glorious theater district we know today, the street was a commercial street that got its name during the Dutch settlement. In fact, the Dutch term “brede weg” literally means “Broadway.”
Fun fact: In the first maps of 1776 with Broadway named, its full name was “Broadway Street.”
3. The longest-running Broadway show was The Phantom of the Opera.
The Phantom of the Opera was on Broadway in New York from 1988 until just this year. Over the years, the musical has been performed more than 13,000 times, and the Phantom has changed 15 times. When it was announced the show was closing, there was such an influx of tickets purchased that the musical ended up extending its closing date by eight weeks!
Fun fact: There are just three musicals in Broadway history that have reached 5-digit performances. See who they are in our list of the longest-running Broadway shows in New York.
4. Broadway is the longest street in the world.
Broadway stretches from Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan to the top of Manhattan in the Bronx. With a length of 33 kilometers, it is the longest street in the world. But that’s not all! Broadway doesn’t actually stop in the Bronx. It continues north through New York State, ending in Westchester County. While it has a wide variety of attractions, the street has remained synonymous with the New York theater industry.
Fun fact: While Broadway is the longest street in the world, being it runs through Manhattan up to Westchester, it’s not actually the longest street in New York City. Instead, Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island is an even longer drag in the city!
5. Only four theaters are actually located on Broadway.
Did you know that although there are 41 Broadway theaters in total, only four of them are actually located on Broadway? That’s because to qualify as a Broadway theater, two criteria must be met:
- It must be located between 40th and 54th streets and between 6th and 8th avenues (which is the so-called “Theater District“).
- It must have at least 500 seats. Any theater with a capacity of fewer than 500 is considered Off-Broadway.
Fun fact: When it comes to theaters, the term “Broadway” is more widely used to refer to the area, not just the street. Basically, consider it a neighborhood!
6. Every time Broadway crosses an avenue, there is a square or circle.
Broadway winds through the checkerboarded streets and avenues of NYC, which is also known as the “grid.” You can even see this from a helicopter or observation deck. On its way from the southern tip of Manhattan to the northern tip, famous squares or circles always form:
- Broadway crosses Park Avenue elevation 14th Street: Union Square
- Broadway crosses 5th Avenue at 23rd Street: Madison Square
- Broadway crosses 6th Avenue at 34th Street: Herald Square
- Broadway crosses 7th Avenue at 42nd Street: Times Square
- Broadway crosses 8th Avenue at 59th Street: Columbus Circle
- Broadway crosses 9th Avenue at 64th Street: Sherman Square
- Broadway crosses 10th Avenue at 71st Street: Verdi Square
Fun fact: Columbus Circle is the only “square” that has not become a square. Rather, as the name suggests, it’s a traffic circle.
7. The last week of the year is the week with the highest sales in Broadway at almost 50 million dollars!
The week with the most sales so far was the last calendar week of 2018 with $57,807,207 million. These are the top of the most successful weeks at the ticket office for Broadway shows:
- Last week in December 2018: $57,807,207 with 378,910 visitors.
- Last week in December 2019: $55,765,408 with 350,714 visitors
- Last week in December 2022: $51,912,862 with 312,878 visitors
- Last week in December 2017: $50,354,029 with 359,495 visitors
- Last week in December 2016: $49,710,190 with 357,718 visitors
Fun fact: The season here does not apply from January to December. Instead, it applies year-round from June to May!
8. Most theaters omit the letter “I” from their seating rows.
To be honest, row I (i.e., row 9) would be the better choice of the two! You never want to be too close to the stage, or you won’t get the full picture!
Fun fact: This is done to avoid confusion with row number 1. In the past, many people have mistakenly claimed front row seats.
9. The Lion King is the highest-grossing Broadway production of all time.
Fun fact: As of May 28, 2023, it has now grossed over $1.8 billion!
10. Hamilton tops the list of most Tony Awards nominations in one night.
In 2016, Hamilton was nominated for 16 out of 26 Tony Awards categories—that’s more than any other production since the first Tony Awards in 1947. At the end of the night, Hamilton took home 11 awards. Even though current ticket prices are quite pricey, the hip-hop-heavy musical about Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is worth every penny!
Fun fact: While Hamilton has won the most Tonys in a single night, most Tony Awards, however, have gone to other shows. First and foremost, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman has received the most total Tonys (16 awards).
11. While tickets are usually very expensive, you can actually see Hamilton for just $10!
The musical, Hamilton, is one of the highlights on Broadway and has been sold out for years. Ticket prices are easily $350, but with a little luck, you can win tickets for just $10 in the Broadway lottery called #HAM4HAM!
It’s for the spontaneous because you enter just one day before the show you want to see.
Fun fact: Fittingly, the ticket for Hamilton on Broadway costs $10 because, after all, Hamilton was the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and is featured on this very bill.
12. Broadway’s nickname was once the Great White Way.
The Manhattan neighborhood known as the Theater District got its nickname the Great White Way from a headline in the New York Evening Telegram on February 3, 1902. The many lights on theater marquees and billboards that illuminate the neighborhood inspired the name.
Fun fact: Figuratively, the area changed color in the 1960s and 1970s. That’s when it was effectively Manhattan’s red-light district.
13. Nearly $1.6 billion US is earned per year.
The theater industry is important to society and plays a major role economically. In the 2022-2023 season, the revenue reached $1.578 billion US.
Fun fact: The 2018-2019 season holds the record with $1.829 billion US.
14. Not all Broadway shows are closed on Mondays.
In general, shows are held 8 times a week, from Tuesday to Sunday, with matinee performances on Wednesday and Saturday. This is why we say that Broadway is “dark” on Mondays.
Fun fact: There are only a few exceptions to this to this day, one being Chicago.
15. The Lyceum Theatre is the oldest Broadway theater in operation.
In 1903, one of the oldest Broadway theaters in operation today was built: the Lyceum Theatre. By the way, we’ve written a comprehensive guide to the theaters in New York. You’ll find the seating chart, tips for the best seats, and what shows are playing right now!
16. Broadway had an Automobile Row
Many are familiar with Millionaires Row at the south end of Central Park, but did you know there was once an Automobile Row? In the 20th century, the section between Times Square and Sherman Square held that title.
Fun fact: Broadway was two lanes for quite a while. But that is no longer the case today.
17. Chicago is the second longest-running musical on Broadway.
Fun fact: The number of performances per week is the same for all of them at eight, but the absolute best seller is Wicked, with more than 14,000 visitors per week, followed by The Lion King, with 12,000 visitors!
18. There are 40 new shows every year!
Competition is high in all areas of New York City, including Broadway shows and plays. Therefore, you can expect an average of 40 new musicals and plays yearly (source: TheBroadwayLeague.com).
Fun fact: Musicals make up the bulk of these, followed by plays, which are often performed off-Broadway.
19. Broadway is getting a free viewing platform.
It’s incredible but true! The new visitor center will be built in Times Square right where Building 1 Times Square now stands. The first designs already exist, as you can see here.
Fun fact: This exciting project will be realized in contrast to the long-announced construction of the world’s largest Ferris wheel on Staten Island.
20. The first musical premiered on Broadway in 1866.
The 1866 show, The Black Crook, is considered the first musical in its current form. It differed from operas in dialogue and period songs and from revues or vaudeville shows in having a unified plot. Written by Charles M. Barras and musically arranged by Thomas Baker, it even included a few original songs.
Fun fact: Having a plot-based show is still considered today as a musical concept. For example, this was the case with Mamma Mia!
21. Broadway has its own museum.
The Museum of Broadway in New York is the first and only museum dedicated entirely to the importance and history of Broadway. Here you can learn everything from the beginnings of Broadway and the Theatre District and its development up to the present day, including the most important musicals.
Fun fact: Behind the Museum of Broadway are Julie Boardman (a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer), Diane Nicoletti (the brains behind “The Game of Thrones Fan Experience”), Ben West (a musical theater artist), and Jennifer Ashley Tepper (another Broadway producer), among others. Basically, they’re the real pros.
22. Twice a year, you can get a 2nd ticket for free!
Twice a year, there is Broadway Week and the parallel Off-Broadway Week. There you can get the coveted 2-for-1 tickets for a short time.
23. There are free performances at Christmastime.
You could admire free performances during the Christmas run-up that take place in very unusual locations. In the past, this has been the case at Hudson Yards and the shopping mall at Columbus Circle!
Fun fact: If you are not in New York at the right time, don’t worry about it! Stop by Gayle’s Broadway Rose if you want to see free Broadway performances. Not only can you enjoy a delicious meal at this Midtown restaurant, but you can also listen to the waiters and waitresses sing.
Bonus: If you can’t make it to a Broadway show because of time or money, there are a lot of great options to get the Broadway feel in New York. If you can get in line early enough on the weekend or stop by on a weeknight, Ellen’s Stardust Diner is a hit among tourists. At the restaurant, you can enjoy your meal while watching live performances by the servers who are trained Broadway singers! They integrate their performances throughout the floor, so don’t worry about needing a stage view—there isn’t one!
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