There is a new king on Broadway! As of Monday, April 9, box office figures showed “The Lion King” overtaking the title of all-time highest grossing show, previously held by “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Figures show that the cumulative gross for “The Lion King” is $853,846,062, surpassing their rival at $853,122,847 by grossing over $2 million just the week before, while “Phantom” only netted about $1.2 million.
What makes “Lion King’s” lead all the more exciting is that “Phantom” has almost a 10-year head start. It opened in January 1988, while “Lion King” opened in November 1997. “Phantom’s” success is not to be overlooked, however. The show is currently in its twenty-fourth year, serving as the longest-running show in Broadway history, according to the Wall Street Journal. It has had more than 10,000 performances, and sold many more tickets than “The Lion King” at 14.8 million.
“The Lion King” is only the sixth longest running show with almost 6,000 performances in its 14 years. Finding their spots between “Phantom” and “The Lion King” are “Cats,” which ran for 18 years, “Les Miserables,” which ran for 16 years, “Chicago” at 16 years and still running, and “A Chorus Line,” with a 15-year run.
According to Hollywood.com, in the 14 years that “The Lion King” has continually played to appreciative and receptive audiences, around 514 shows have opened and closed.
The secret to “Lion King” winning the highest-grossing title is its ticket prices. The Wall Street Journal said, “The upstart’s victory is due in large part to its higher average ticket prices and a slightly larger theater. Monday’s data shows ‘Phantom’ had an average paid admission of $98.97, while ‘The Lion King’ fetched $155.09.” The slightly larger Minskoff Theatre definitely helps, with its 1,677 seats compared to the Majestic, which hosts “Phantom” and has 1,605 seats.
Cary Ginell, a music historian and biographer, believes “The Lion King” can be compared to Disneyland. “It’s a spectacle that satisfies on many different sensory elements — audio, visually, emotionally. It’s also good for all ages — just like Disneyland is,” he tells The Washington Post. “For the kids, it’s the visual elements — the colors, the costumes, and the puppetry. For the adults, it’s ‘Hamlet’ basically. And the music is not geared to one age or gender or race. It’s as universal a show can get.”
Disney Theatrical Productions attributes the success of “The Lion King” to director Julie Taymor, according to Rebecca Ford of Hollywood Reporter. “Her vision, continued commitment to the show and uncommon artistry account for this extraordinary success,” said Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions.
Schumacher also thanks the audiences, many of whom are experiencing Broadway for the first time, for their continued support of the production. “Surely, introducing so many to the splendor of live theater is our show’s greatest legacy.”
H. Todd Freeman, of Applause Theatre & Entertainment Service Inc., attributes its success to “its family draw, big visuals and ticket prices that were double those for ‘Phantom’ when it started,” according to The Associated Press.
As Ginell told The Associated Press, he does not see a time soon when “The Lion King” abandons its kingdom. He considers it the “perfect family musical” and “it always will be” — as long as expenses allow it.