‘Lion King’ roars at box office

Broadway sales rise during holiday-weekend frame

Broadway box office got a healthy boost last week, with almost every individual production posting a week-to-week gain — including “The Lion King,” which became one of the rare tuners to nudge “Wicked” out of its near-constant perch at the top of the heap.

The week’s shows managed to benefit not only from the holiday uptick prompted by Presidents’ Day weekend but also from date-night biz for Valentine’s Day, which fell on a Monday.

Many productions are traditionally dark that day, including “Lion King” ($1,534,779). But last week, in anticipation of a surge of hand-holding couples, “Lion King” shifted the week’s sked to include a Monday night perf.

That helped the 13-year-old musical climb more than $250,000 to pass “Wicked” ($1,526,036) and win the weekly box office horse race by a nose. In recent weeks, “Wicked” also has been surpassed a couple of times by “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” but there still doesn’t seem to be any cause for concern in Oz. Attendance at “Wicked,” reported at 97.4%, proved one of the highest percentages of the sesh.

The top attendance percentage of the week, unsurprisingly, went to Al Pacino starrer “The Merchant of Venice” ($1,125,272), pulling in capacity biz thanks to the last-minute sales of its final week on the boards. Also posting strong attendance numbers was the Roundabout’s popular revival of “The Important of Being Earnest” ($393,099), drawing crowds at 97.2% of capacity.

“Spider-Man” ($1,476,828), still showing no noticeable slowdown from the critical pans that hit newspapers earlier this month, came in at No. 3 in the Top 10 for a week of eight previews. “American Idiot” ($1,144,030) powered into the fourth spot on the strength of holiday-weekend biz and a starring gig for Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, who wraps up his strong-selling stint in the show at the end of the month.

In general, the rising tide of sales lent some of the strongest momentum of the week to long-running musicals with well-known titles: Not just “Lion King,” but also “Chicago,” with receipts up awhopping 41% to $571,383, and “Mamma Mia!” ($764,201), climbing at the B.O. by some 32% over the prior frame.

On the non-tuner front, “That Championship Season” ($636,883) posted strong numbers for a play in only its second week of previews, with the show, driven by a starry ensemble cast, playing to auds approaching 90% of capacity. Manhattan Theater Club’s production of the new David Lindsay-Abaire play “Good People” ($296,666) also stepped up a bit.

The only dip of the frame came at “La Cage aux Folles” ($458,407), which slid following a spike the prior week prompted by the final appearances by the production’s original stars, Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge. Harvey Fierstein and Jeffrey Tambor began their stints in the show Feb. 15.

Overall, Main Stem sales climbed $1.8 million to $16.9 million for 22 shows on the boards.