UPDATE 8:45 a.m. with more info below: Disney’s global blockbuster The Lion King has surpassed The Phantom Of The Opera as the highest-grossing show of all time, the company confirmed today. Broadway, touring and international productions of the show — which opened Disney’s Times Square showplace, the New Amsterdam Theatre, on November 13, 1997 — have passed the $6.2 billion mark.
The show, which later transferred to the Minskoff Theatre, where it continues to take in circa $2 million weekly, recently surpassed the $6 billion worldwide gross of Phantom Of The Opera, running since 1988 at Broadway’s Majestic and in London since 1986 at Her Majesty’s. That show remains the longest-running champeen. But the half-masked man acknowledged the box office record graciously.
“Broadway’s longest-running musical congratulates the Pride of Broadway on joining the 6 billion-plus club,” Cameron Mackintosh, Phantom co-producer with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company, said in a statement.
The longevity and cross-cultural appeal of both shows, along with Mackintosh’s oft-revived and second current Broadway offering Les Miserables, make a powerful statement about the vitality — not to mention the lucrativeness — of the global market for live theater. No film has ever come with in shouting distance of that $6 billion-plus figure, nor has any film remained a box office sensation over a two-decade span at prices topping $100 per ticket.
But the success of The Lion King goes further, attesting to Disney’s gutsiness in putting the franchise in the hands of Julie Taymor, best known previously as a genius of the theater’s avant garde. Before The Lion King went global, through Taymor and her team it embraced a global view of theater, bringing in elements of Asian and African theater, music and performance. It’s a timeless masterpiece as much as an international moneymaker.