Show keeps pace with 'Cats' for all-time gross crown

NEW YORK – While “The Phantom of the Opera” is fifth on the list of Broadway’s longest-runners — behind producer Cameron Mackintosh’s other longrunners, the first-place “Cats” and fourth-place “Les Miserables” — financially the Gothic tuner has been the most successful of the lot: “Phantom” has grossed more than $335 million at the Majestic Theater.

The total is roughly the same as that of “Cats,” though it took the feline tuner an additional five years to hit the mark. “Les Miserables,” which celebrated its own 10-year anniversary at the Imperial Theater in March, has netted about $270 million.

And “Phantom’s” Broadway coin is only a fraction of the $2.6 billion in worldwide ticket sales the show has grossed since the chandelier first crashed on the London stage in 1986, according to Mackintosh’s figures. In addition to the Broadway and London productions, seven “Phantom” companies roam the world, including three U.S. national tours and companies in Toronto, Melbourne, Hamburg and Nagoya, Japan.

The first U.S. national tour, which opened at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson in 1989 and stayed there for four years before moving to its current home at the Curran in San Francisco, has played 3,496 performances and grossed $280 million, as of Jan. 11. The second touring company hit the road in 1990, playing 3,025 performances and grossing $359 million, while the third has played 2,062 performances and netted $244 million since it launched in 1992.

And that doesn’t include sales of related merchandise, which come to $225 million worldwide since the show began. Enough “Phantom” apparel has been sold to outfit a small country: 4.5 million T-shirts and sweatshirts, and 90,000 caps. The show has hawked 1.5 million cast albums, 1.6 million mugs and more than 12 million programs.

“Phantom” owes a share of its enduring popularity to its extravagant special effects, which have been a boon to the dry ice industry: The Broadway production has used 1,140 tons of the stuff over the past 10 years. The show also has gone through two tons of apples (for the “Don Juan” scene), 29,540 flash bulbs (in that chandelier), 791,250 gallons of shot powder (for flash-pots) and 253,200 AAA-batteries (in the sound system).

It has gone through quite a few actors, too, with only one principal member of the original cast still on board: Leila Martin, who plays Madame Giry, the ballet mistress. Michael Crawford, the original star of the Broadway production, has been succeeded by eight other Phantoms, including the current Thomas James O’Leary. Overall, 138 actors have appeared in the production.

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