“The Lion King” takes Broadway’s box-office throne

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The Lion King

The Lion King

Based on Disney’s 1994 movie of the same name, The Lion King is the new ruler of Broadway, having now outgrossed The Phantom of the Opera.

Box office figures released Monday indicate that The Lion King is now Broadway’s highest-grossing show of all time. Numbers give the cumulative gross at $853,846,062, according to the musical’s publicist — just above The Phantom of the Opera‘s $853,122,847.

For the week ending Sunday, The Lion King made over $2 million, while Phantom drew about $1.2 million. Whereas the Disney show debuted in November 1997, Phantom opened in January 1988.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said music historian and biographer Cary Ginell, editor of the seventh edition of Broadway Musicals: Show By Show. He compared The Lion King to a Disneyland ride.

“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,” Ginell said.

“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.”

Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions, credited to Julie Taymor, the musical’s director, costume and mask maker.

”Her vision, continued commitment to the show and uncommon artistry account for this extraordinary success,” he said in a statement.

“This accomplishment belongs to our audiences, millions of whom are experiencing their first Broadway show at The Lion King,” Schumacher added. “Surely, introducing so many to the splendor of live theater is our show’s greatest legacy.”

Factors in The Lion King‘s financial success include a somewhat larger theater and higher average ticket prices.

Lion is on Broadway at the 1,677-seat Minskoff, while Phantom is at the 1,605-seat Majestic. Figures released Monday indicate that The Lion King had an average paid admission of $155.09, while Phantom had a corresponding figure of $98.97.

Phantom remained Broadway’s longest-running show, with over 10,000 performances. It’s also sold 14.8 million tickets.

That’s a lot more than The Lion King, the sixth longest-running show on Broadway. It’s had over 5,900 Broadway performances, selling sold just over 10 million tickets.

Total worldwide grosses for Lion are estimated at $4.8 billion, compared with $5.6 billion for Phantom.

Lion has been seen by 64 million around the world, just about half the 130 million people who’ve seen Phantom.

According to H. Todd Freeman, vice-president of operations at ticket broker Applause Theatre & Entertainment Service, Inc., The Lion King‘s success can be ascribed to big visuals, its family-friendly nature and ticket prices that were twice those for Phantom when it opened.

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