March 26, 2010 / 7:42 PM / 9 years ago

Gauging U.S. consumer sentiment? The play's the thing

Actress and singer Liza Minnelli performs during the 63rd annual Tony Awards ceremony in New York, June 7, 2009. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

NEW YORK (Reuters) - “There’s No Business like Show Business” to figure out how the U.S. consumer is doing.

With the average price of a ticket to a big Broadway show $80, Broadway, the “Street of Dreams,” is a good place to look for signs of renewed consumer confidence, says Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at BNY ConvergEx Group in New York

His analysis of the theater-going habits of the New York City natives and visitors has left him cautiously optimistic about the health of the consumer, with an emphasis on “cautious,” said Colas.

It’s a bad news/good news story.

The bad news is ticket sales for the eight largest shows on Broadway were down every single week of 2010 compared to the same period last year, partly due to “Winter Wonderland” weather persisting through February, Colas said.

In the good news department, post-snowstorm demand bounced back nicely and was almost in positive territory on a percentage change basis compared to last year, Colas said.

On the inflation front, ticket prices rose only modestly, about 2 percent, essentially in line with price trends on items recorded in the government’s core consumer price data.

Since the beginning of the year, some 750,000 people have attended performances of hit musicals like Jersey Boys, Mary Poppins, and The Lion King. Tickets to these shows cost $71-$110 on average.

At least when it comes to live entertainment, consumer demand is only now returning to 2009 levels and continued slack consumer demand for Broadway shows is a cautionary note.

Editing by Andrea Ricci

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