The Lion King becomes biggest grossing musical ever

Since its Broadway debut in 1997 the musical has been seen by an estimated 75 million people in 22 productions around the world

Andrew Johnson
Tuesday 23 September 2014 13:24
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Actors from The Lion King musical perform on-stage
Actors from The Lion King musical perform on-stage

The Lion King musical has grossed more money at the box office than any other film or stage show in history, the Walt Disney Company said last night.

Worldwide ticket sales for the show surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer, meaning it has taken more money than huge cinema hits such as any individual Star Wars film, Titanic and the highest grossing film of all time, Avatar, which took $2.8bn (£1.7bn).

The Lion King, which was originally a 1994 animated film (gross $1bn), tells the story of Simba, a royal lion cub who is cast into the wild by his evil uncle. With the help of his animal friends he goes on to regain his rightful place as King of the Jungle.

It features music by Elton John and lyrics by Sir Tim Rice. Since its Broadway debut in 1997 the musical has been seen by an estimated 75 million people in 22 productions around the world.

"It's difficult not to become emotional at this realisation of the show's impact," said Thomas Schumacher, president and producer at Disney Theatrical Productions.

"Our goal then was to tell the story purely and theatrically so that audiences could feel it in their heart," he added. "And, to this day, that is the audience experience whether they see the show in Madrid; Appleton, Wisconsin; South Africa; Tokyo or Broadway. Of that, we are deeply proud."

Disney also pointed out that the huge take was from ticket sales only, and did not include merchandise such as posters or CDs.

The Lion King has now just overtaken Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera as the highest grossing musical, even though Phantom has been running since 1986, making it the longest running show in Broadway history, and has been seen by 130 million people.

"Phantom" producers Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Group congratulated "The Lion King" in a statement, calling their rival show "The Pride of Broadway.

But producers pointed out that ticket prices were not a factor. The Lion King is not the most expensive ticket on Broadway, where the Book of Mormon and Wicked have higher prices.

"It's the distance runner, it's the marathon runner. It's taken 17 years of legitimacy to get there," said David Schrader, executive vice president and managing director at Disney Theatrical Group.

"We're never going to be the top price. We're never going to have the highest VIP price. We're never going to have the highest orchestra price. We're not in this for tomorrow afternoon. We're in it for however many years we've got. We're trying to be moderate."

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