Ten Years of Boffo Box Office from 'Tonys and Ponies Weekend'

Pop Culture
Two major New York events capture the public eye every June: the Belmont Stakes and the Tony Awards, held this year at Radio City Music Hall (Eclipse Sportswire/Wikimedia Commons)

New York has many grand traditions, and this weekend brings two of the greatest back-to-back: The Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday, and Broadway’s Tony Awards on Sunday.

It’s a confluence of two classic New York industries that stretch back to the 19th century: The first running of the Belmont Stakes was in 1867, and Broadway is rooted in vaudeville, which took hold in the 1880s. (The first Tony Awards were in 1947.)

Though racing and theater maybe have little in common today, except for a handful of passionate investors, the two industries were central to American entertainment before movies, television and the ever-expanding world of sports.

What is shared on "Tonys and Ponies Weekend" is thrilling anticipation, the launch of new stars — and the potential for major financial recoupment.

For shows, Tony Awards typically boost demand, ticket prices and longevity. For horses, a Belmont win brings the prize money but also a potential boost in breeding potential after winning the “Test of the Champion,” the longest of the three Triple Crown races.

With all that in mind, here’s a look back at the money generated by last the 10 years of Belmont winners and Tony Award-winning best musicals. (No disrespect to best plays, but we had to pick one.)

As you’ll see, yes, American Pharoah is the “Hamilton” of horses. And though Pharoah won the Belmont the year before “Hamilton” won the Tony, they both made the summer of 2015 unforgettable.

A few housekeeping notes on comparisons: While the Belmont-winning horses will appear to have earned far less money that the Tony-winning musicals, the costs and the economics of each game are entirely different. 

Additionally, horses’ earnings and track performances are tallied along calendar years, whereas Broadway seasons stretch over two calendar years, as in school years. Shows can enter the fray in any month. For the sake of comparison, the Broadway grosses collected here reflect the first 52 weeks of a show’s life on Broadway, starting from the first week of its first preview. Figures do not include tours or international productions.

SOURCES: Equibase; The Broadway League



2016 earnings: $1.58 million 

Lifetime earnings:  $1.6 million


First-year grosses: $87.9 million

Current total grosses from 791 shows : $209.7 million

July 19, 2015 to present


American Pharoah (Eclipse Sportswire)

American Pharaoh 

2015 earnings: $8.28 million 

Lifetime earnings: $8.6 million

“Fun Home”

First-year grosses: $31.5 million 

Total grosses from 609 shows: $41.5 million 

March 29, 2015 to Sep. 10, 2016



2014 earnings: $1.9 million 

Lifetime earnings: $3.6 million 

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

First-year grosses: $33.5 million 

Total grosses from 935 shows: $73.7 million 

Oct. 22, 2013 to Jan. 17, 2016


Palace Malice (Eclipse Sportswire)

Palace Malice

2013 earnings: $1.4 million

Lifetime earnings: $2.69 million

“Kinky Boots”

First year grosses: $74.3 million

Current total gross after 1772 shows: $238.8million

March 3, 2013 to present


Union Rags

2012 earnings: $940,000

Lifetime earnings: $1.79 million


First-year grosses: $47.9 million 

Total grosses from 1191 shows: $110.3 million

Feb. 28, 2012 to Jan. 4, 2015


Ruler On Ice (Eclipse Sportswire)

Ruler on Ice

2011 earnings: $1.59 million

Lifetime earnings: $1.7 million 

“The Book of Mormon”

First year grosses: $63 million 

Total grosses from 2622 shows: $493 million

Feb. 24, 2011 to present 



2010 earnings: $749,200

Lifetime earnings: $3.7 million


First-year grosses: $34.3 million 

Total grosses from 1195 shows: $104.4 million

Sep. 23, 2009 to Aug. 5, 2012


Summer Bird (Eclipse Sportswire)

Summer Bird 

2009 and lifetime earnings: $2.3 million 

“Billy Elliot”

First-year grosses: $61.8  million 

Total grosses from 1,352 shows: $183.5 million

Oct. 1, 2008 to Jan. 8, 2012



2008 earnings: $694,132

Lifetime earnings: $743,090 

“In the Heights”

First-year grosses: $38.9 million 

Total gross over 1,213 shows: $105.3 million

Feb. 14, 2008 to Jan. 9, 2011


Rags to Riches (Adam Coglianese/NYRA)

Rags to Riches

2007 earnings: $1.34 million 

Lifetime earnings: $1.34 million 

“Spring Awakening”

First-year grosses: $29.9 million

Total grosses over 887 shows: $57.4 million 

Nov. 16, 2006 to Jan. 18, 2009

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