'Lion King' brings chandelier down on 'Phantom,' becomes new all-time high earner on Broadway

A new king has been crowned on Broadway. Box office figures to be released later Monday show that The Lion King last week swiped the title of Broadway’s all-time highest grossing show from The Phantom of the Opera, The Associated Press has learned.

The cumulative gross for The Lion King is $853,846,062, according to the show’s numbers. Its chandelier-swinging rival’s cumulative total is $853,122,847, according to musical’s publicist. The Lion King surged past Phantom after netting over $2 million at the box office for the week ending Sunday, while Phantom pulled in about $1.2 million.

What makes the achievement all the more remarkable is that The Lion King chased down and grabbed the title despite Phantom having almost a full 10 years’ head start. The Disney show opened in November 1997, while Phantom debuted in January 1988. The upstart’s victory is due in large part to its higher average ticket prices and a slightly larger theater.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Cary Ginell, a music historian and biographer who edited the seventh edition of Broadway Musicals: Show By Show. He compares 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. 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 was gracious when contacted about reaching the milestone, saluting Phantom song writer Andrew Lloyd Webber and Phantom producer Cameron Mackintosh, who also co-produced Disney’s hit Mary Poppins, and calling their show “a global phenomenon of historic proportions.”

Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions, also gave credit to Julie Taymor, the director, costume and mask maker of The Lion King. ”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.”

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Broadway: 'Lion King' beats 'Phantom of the Opera' as top earner | PopWatch | EW.com