For Broadway’s really big hits, the mega-bucks don’t come from a show’s outpost on the Main Stem – they come from all the title’s incarnations around the world. Proving the point: The juggernaut musical adaptation of “The Lion King” has hit $1 billion in grosses from the show’s North American touring companies alone, according to Disney Theatrical Prods.
The 15-year-old Broadway production, where box office is stronger than it’s ever been, hasn’t yet hit $1 billion, although it’s close. As of the week ending July 7, the Gotham staging had pulled in $972 million.
Take the coin from the North American tour, add in the money earned by the show’s concurrent international incarnations — the tenth of which opens later this year in Australia — plus the revenue from its prior stagings around the world, and the boffo tally confirms the adage that in the theater you can’t make a living, but you can sure make a killing. For further examples, see “Wicked” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”
The national tour of “The Lion King” launched in Denver, Colo., in 2002 — relatively late, for a show that bowed on the Rialto in 1997. A second North American road production ran from 2003-2008. According to Disney, more than 15 million have seen “Lion King” in one of its touring outings.
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There are a number of factors keeping “Lion King” among the royalty of top legit earners, not least of which is its source material, the 1994 animated pic that has become a standard for kiddie auds. The film’s 2011 3D theatrical release, for instance, seems certain to have given a boost to interest in the legit adaptation on the road and elsewhere.