Disney’s “The Lion King” has claimed a new crown: Top box office title in any medium.
The Associated Press did the math and discovered the 17-year-old stage musical, which on Broadway has undergone an extraordinary spurt of B.O. growth in recent years, has logged worldwide sales of more than $6.2 billion, taking the lead from another Broadway longrunner, “The Phantom of the Opera,” which has pulled in $6 billion.
That tally makes “Lion King” more successful than any single movie in history. The top film earner of all time is “Avatar,” weighing in at $2.8 billion.
The Broadway production of “Lion King” accounts for nearly $1.1 billion of the title’s overall cume, with the rest coming from North American tours and international outposts in London, Tokyo and Vegas, among other cities. Overall, “Lion King” has been seen in 22 different productions around the world.
Although “Lion King” has nosed past it at the legit box office, the 26-year-old “Phantom” continues to show stellar endurance. The New York production is the longest runner in Main Stem history, and in many ways the internationally renowned property served as the trailblazer for the global growth of subsequent Broadway musicals that have included “Wicked” and, yes, “Lion King.”
The lucrative landmark for Disney serves as just the latest encouragement for Hollywood studios to keep playing the high-risk, high-reward game of Broadway.
Warner Bros. Theater Ventures has stepped up its activity recently both in Gotham and in London, where its “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” has carved out a healthy run, while last year Fox marked its increased focus on stage entertainment with a partnership with Broadway vet Kevin McCollum. Sony recently took a step toward exploiting its catalog with a deal with another Rialto producer, Scott Sanders, and Universal, which counts Broadway tuner “Wicked” among its most profitable properties, also is in the mix with a handful of developing musicals drawn from its catalog.