If “The Lion King” is missing from the grosses chart this week, it’s not because the Broadway incarnation of the global hit has abruptly run out of steam.
It was just that Disney shut down the show for a week for the final phase of its three-block move from the New Amsterdam Theater to the Minskoff.
Given its longtime residency near the summit of the top 10, “Lion King” — consistently the No. 2 earner on the Rialto, behind “Wicked” — isn’t moving for financial reasons. It’s making way for the American production of “Mary Poppins,” co-produced by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, to go into the New Amsterdam this fall.
But won’t the move to a smaller theater jeopardize the show’s standing as one of the top-grossing residents of the Great White Way?
Not so much, it turns out. Gross potential actually will be a bit higher, with potential at the New Amsterdam around $1.14 million for 1,801 seats, vs. a possible $1.15 million for 1,597 seats at the Misnkoff. That parity is thanks in part to the Minskoff’s expansive auditorium that does not have, as the New Am does, a balcony over its mezzanine, with seats sold at higher-altitude prices.
And having 200 fewer tickets to sell for each perf can only boost demand and lengthen the lifespan of “King,” which, admittedly, shows little sign of weakening at the box office in its ninth year.
In order to shut down the show for no more than a week, the entire physical production was rebuilt in the Minskoff so that it could continue to play on the original set at the New Am.
That was expensive, acknowledges Disney Theatrical producer Thomas Schumacher, but less so than shutting down the show for a longer period.
And the 1973 theater’s costly renovation of its formerly bland interior — including a new paint job, new carpet and gilded sculptural decorations by designer Mariuca Brancoveanu, with a nod to the space’s 1970s provenance — was paid for by the Nederlanders.
As for the show itself, cast size and staging remain mostly unchanged.
“What’s dramatically different are the backstage entrances and exits and costume changes — the behind-the-scenes choreography,” Schumacher says.
“Lion King” bows at the Minskoff June 13.
‘Queen’ to reign at Hilton?
With the Palace Theater, the former home of “Lestat,” vacant and looking for a tenant — and the Nederlanders checking out “Mame” in D.C. this week as a possible replacement — chatter also has turned to an even larger venue, the Hilton.
The Hilton, of course, already has a tenant, “Hot Feet,” that producers plan (for the moment, anyway) to run at least through the summer. But the show got slammed by critics, and weekly grosses rarely crack $300,000 — which of course leads to speculation on the Rialto.
There’s talk, for instance, that a tuner version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” might steal into the Hilton for a limited holiday engagement. The show, which originated at the Old Globe in San Diego and is helmed by Old Globe a.d. Jack O’Brien (“Hairspray,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”), recently scuttled plans for a brief warm-up run in Buffalo, N.Y., in November, but it remains too soon to rule out a Gotham visit.
Another candidate for the Hilton? “The Pirate Queen,” the new mega-tuner from “Les Miserables” duo Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg.
“Queen” has a Chicago tryout Oct. 3-Nov. 26, and word is that the show could launch at the Hilton in January.