Boxoffice Insider: First Quarter Recap Shows Ticket Sales Up 4.5% Prior To Industry Shutdown

Punit Paranjpe / AFP / Getty Images
– U2
U2, No. 3 on Pollstar’s Q1 Top 100 Tours chart, pictured playing India for the first time, at the D.Y. Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai Dec. 15, 2019.

With an anxious eye on the future as the COVID-19 global health crisis currently wreaks havoc on the live entertainment world, there is good news to report as we recap box office success during the first quarter of the year. A success story is welcome news in these troubled times, and that’s what we have, considering Q1’s Nov. 21-Feb. 19 period of chart eligibility generally preceded the effects of the pandemic that has crippled the live industry.

Box office data from the 100 best-attended tours shows more than a 4% jump in sold ticket counts compared to the same Q1 period last year, and tickets are the name of the game in Pollstar’s quarterly recaps. All of the Q1 charts are ranked by worldwide ticket sales. Classifications consist of the Top 100 Tours, Top 100 Arenas, Top 50 Clubs, Top 50 Theaters and Top 50 Promoters.
At the forefront of the top tours chart is an impressive and dominant performance by rock ensemble Trans-Siberian Orchestra, ranked highest among touring artists. With TSO’s 2019 holiday tour “Christmas Eve & Other Stories” launching just prior to the start date of Q1 eligibility, the bulk of the shows – 91 out of 108 – were counted in the chart tallies. Thus, with two touring companies on the road simultaneously and multiple dates with matinees, the group moved a whopping 885,304 tickets at 56 arenas in North America to secure No. 1 among the Top 100 Tours.
Catapulting to the second position is Elton John with more than a half-million tickets sold in Australia and New Zealand during Q1 as his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour” made its 14-week sweep through Oceania. With 31 performances reported, his gross Down Under reached $67.6 million from those shows – the highest gross recorded for one headliner in Q1. The trek was originally planned as his only visit to the continent on the farewell run, however, postponements due to illness meant that two shows at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium had to be rescheduled and are now set for February 2021.
Aussie shows also played a part in U2’s chart appearance at No. 3 with stadium dates in the Sydney and Perth markets contributing over 132,000 tickets to the band’s overall Q1 ticket count of 360,710. The remainder of the shows were set in Asia with two-night stints at Singapore’s National Stadium and the Saitama Super Arena near Tokyo, followed by the final three stops on the 2019 “Joshua Tree” tour: Seoul, South Korea; Bulacan, Philippines and Mumbai, India.
Jonas Brothers
Xavi Torrent / Redferns
– Jonas Brothers
Jonas Brothers, performing at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona Feb. 17, 2020, are No. 4 on the Q1 Top 100 Tours, with more than 300,000 tickets sold.

Jonas Brothers and Celine Dion round out the Top 5 with sales from their “Happiness Begins” and “Courage” tours, respectively, with the brothers’ trek including dates in both North America and Europe while Dion’s was set exclusively in the U.S. and Canada. The Jonas’ itinerary included a two-night stint among the 22 arenas booked on both sides of the pond, a Dec. 14-15 engagement at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., with 29,568 tickets bought at both sold-out concerts. The “Courage” schedule in Q1 included double-show dates in Toronto, Boston and Miami with the Canadian fans nabbing the most tickets – 26,831 at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena for sellouts on Dec. 9 and 10.

Other tour highlights include a Top 10 appearance by Las Vegas-based heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch scoring the sixth slot on the chart with 36 shows on two continents. 
Meanwhile, the Eagles land at No. 36 on the strength of three-show runs at just two American arenas – Atlanta’s State Farm Arena and New York’s Madison Square Garden. All six shows took place during the first half of February with packed arena crowds at each performance and a total ticket take of 80,433.
King of Country George Strait is at No. 18 with 142,397 sold seats at arenas in Fort Worth, Texas; Wichita, Kan.; and Kansas City, Mo., along with T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas where he continued his residency with December, January and February shows. Another four-decade veteran, Madonna, charts with her small-venue trek dubbed “Madame X” taking the 45th spot with 66,438 tickets at four of the final venues on her tour.
Mannheim Steamroller hits at No. 19 with the most venues played among the Top 100 Tours, moving 141,180 tickets at 59 theaters during Q1. Denver’s Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre logged the biggest crowd with 7,920 seats sold – 93% of the available tickets for a Dec. 14 performance. Also, the Kelly Family makes a high-profile chart appearance at No. 7 based on a ticket tally of 251,653 from 36 concerts, primarily set in German arenas. The family group is not broadly well known outside of Europe, but they have been touring extensively on the continent, primarily in Germany, since reuniting in 2017. The family’s long performing history began in the ’70s, yet they attained fame in the ’90s and enjoyed German chart success with their recordings before disbanding in the early 2000s.
Among the venue success stories charted in 2020’s first-quarter recaps, Madrid’s WiZink Center stands out as the highest-ranked indoor venue among the Top 100 Arenas. The 15-year-old, 15,000-seat sports and entertainment facility hosted 34 artists and event headliners during Q1, the most of any arena, racking up a ticket tally of 376,956. Two of the acts played three-show engagements during the Q1 period: hometown indie rock band Vetusta Morla with 39,273 sold seats in a late-December run and a co-bill with Joan Manuel Serrat and Joaquín Sabina who performed shows on Jan. 20-21 and again on Feb. 11 with a total of 34,002 tickets.
At No. 2 is the best-attended North American arena, Madison Square Garden in New York City with 345,343 tickets sold from just 15 events. The only act with four performances was the band Phish with the annual New Year’s Eve run of shows that drew 76,079 fans. 
And, the only three-show headliner was the Eagles who logged 41,058 purchased tickets for sold-out concerts in February. The band also had the biggest gross at the arena during Q1 with a box office haul topping out at $10.7 million. Double-show headliners were Andrea Bocelli and Cher, while two of Billy Joel’s monthly residency performances fell during the Q1 time frame, the Dec. 11 event along with the Jan. 25 show.
Looking at the global regions represented, just over half of the ranked arenas are located in the U.S. – 55 of them – while two are in Canada. Latin American countries house six of them, and 31 are in Europe. Australia claims four of the ranked arenas, while two are in Asian countries.
Radio City Music Hall in New York tops the Theater rankings with a massive sold ticket count of 977,007 fueled primarily by its annual holiday event, the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular.” 169 of the production’s 198 performances land in the Q1-eligibility period accounting for 915,401 of those tickets. Seven other events also happened during Q1 including a sold-out, two-show run by English artist Rex Orange County on Feb. 7-8 with 11,884 sold seats.
Boston’s House of Blues makes it five in a row at No. 1 in quarterly recaps of the Top 50 Clubs. This year’s ticket count almost hit 100k with 99,442 tickets bought at 48 concerts – 25% more than the venue’s ticket count in last year’s Q1 when they also topped the chart. A mid-January run of four shows by Canadian DJ Deadmau5 brought in the most fans with 8,959 total tickets.
Top Promoter highlights include No. 1-ranked Live Nation with almost half-a-billion dollars earned from 4.9 million sold tickets reported during Q1, followed by powerhouse AEG Presents at No. 2 with 1.3 million tickets for a gross reaching $120.9 billion. 
Internationally, Germany’s Semmel Concerts Entertainment scores No. 4, the highest among European promoters, followed by Australia’s top ticket-mover Frontier Touring Company. Mexico’s OCESA/CIE leads among Latin American promoters, while Montreal’s evenko (No. 30) represents Canada on the list.