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Broadway Box Office: ‘Lion King’ Reigns, With Help From Its Theater

Disney musical leads a Broadway sales chart that's business as usual for summer 2013

More than once this summer, Broadway musical “The Lion King” has done something impressive: It’s beaten “Wicked” at the box office even when “Lion King” plays a traditional eight-perf week and “Wicked” adds on an additional ninth.

Last week it happened again with “The Lion King” ($2,149,242) leading the Top 10 ahead of “Wicked” ($2,053,281 for nine), with “Wicked” tacking on its extra perf to take advantage tourist-boosted summer demand. But even though “Lion King” plays in a smaller venue than “Wicked,” there are advantages in the layout of the show’s theater that have helped the Disney title maximize earnings.

There’s a clue to the difference between the Minskoff, the 1,700-seat venue where “Lion King” plays, and the Gershwin, the 1,809-seater where “Wicked” defies gravity, in the potential grosses reported at each theater. For a regular, eight-perf week at “Wicked,” the potential gross (calculated by assuming every ticket sells at its regular top price, without taking into account potential premium-seating gains) is $1,681,127. Compare that to “Lion King,” which despite its smaller house has a potential of a whopping $2,167,440.

The crucial difference is the layout of the Minskoff, a wide house with more orchestra seats than many Rialto houses and no second balcony, where seats tend to be lower priced. “Lion King” therefore holds a bigger inventory of tickets able to sustain higher price points than most Broadway shows, a fact that has gone a long way in helping the tuner — which has seen unusual rises in box office and attendance in recent years — top the $2 million mark for the last six weeks running.

“Lion King” and “Wicked” topped a Broadway chart that, for the week ending Aug. 11, was largely business as usual for summer 2013. A robust 11 titles broke $1 million each, reflecting a lineup that’s unusually crowded with strong commercial performers including newer outings “Kinky Boots” ($1,632,911), “Motown” ($1,476,600) and “Matilda” ($1,313,384).

As summer begins to wind down, however, some productions are beginning to call it quits, with “The Nance” ($444,605) playing the end of its limited engagement and benefiting from a sales boost in last-minute biz. “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” ($556,185) will follow “Nance” out the door in a couple of weeks.

Zachary Levi starrer “First Date” ($416,131) had to contend with accommodating press tickets and a largely comped opening night, but only saw sales dip a bit, an encouraging sign. Meanwhile, previewing musical “Soul Doctor” ($197,157) still hasn’t caught on with auds.

Overall Broadway cume was about on par with the prior sesh, coming at $23.3 million for 24 shows on the boards. Attendance ticked up just slightly to 218,351, and the average price paid per ticket, a good indicator of overall demand for Main Stem fare, came close to $107 – an impressive tally even in a summer that has seem the figure hit notable heights.

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