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Broadway Box Office: ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Wicked’ Lead a Record $1.27 Billion Season

Broadway musicals “The Lion King” and “Wicked” came within spitting distance of earning $100 million each during the 2013-14 season, which, with the final numbers now in, tallied a record $1,268,881,236 for the entire 52-week frame.

That total easily topped the previous record of $1.139 billion logged in 2011-12, with 2013-14 sales inflated not only by the increasing prevalence of premium-priced seating but by the growing number of titles able to command those ultra-high prices during high-demand weeks. Last spring, perennials such as “Lion King” ($97.5 million), “Wicked” ($96.4 million) and “The Book of Mormon” ($90.2 million) were joined by an unusually robust crop of strong earners that included “Kinky Boots” ($80 million), “Motown” ($67.7 million) and “Matilda” ($62.1 million) — all of which added to the pot this year with their first full season of revenue.

The 2013-14 season’s attendance of 12.21 million, or 86% of total capacity, wasn’t an all-time high, but it represented an improvement of 5.6% over the 11.57 million logged in 2012-13. Audience turnout reached its all-time peak of 12.53 million in 2010-11, when playing weeks — i.e., the total number of weeks played by each individual production over the course of a season, all added together — was also at a high of 1,588. The 2013-14 season came in at 1,496.

Disney Theatrical was responsible for a major chunk of the 2013-14 total, with “Lion King” joined by “Newsies” ($40.8 million) and, as of this spring, “Aladdin” ($13.9 million), the current Tony nominee that’s posted million-plus weeks since it opened March 20. Scott Rudin also could take credit for a hefty share of the 2013-14 earnings with a portfolio that included megaseller “Mormon” as well as “Betrayal” ($17.5 million), the hot ticket from the fall that starred Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, and the current “A Raisin in the Sun” ($12.6 million), the Denzel Washington topliner that’s a notable player in this year’s Tony race.

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Two of the season’s critical faves and nomination magnets, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” and “After Midnight,” have had trouble attracting blockbuster sales since they began their runs, and their season tallies bear evidence of it: “Gentleman’s Guide,” which opened in November, logged a modest $15.1 million, and “After Midnight,” which opened a couple of weeks earlier, pulled in $18.2 million.

By comparison, Carole King musical “Beautiful,” which opened in January and seems to have snowballed into a sleeper hit, has tallied $23 million.

Among the season’s other standout productions, the Shakespeare-in-rep productions of “Twelfth Night”/”Richard III” racked up $14 million, an impressive tally for a show that sold a significant chunk of its seats for $25 each. Bryan Cranston starrer “All the Way,” buoyed by the zeitgeist heat of “Breaking Bad” and Cranston’s role in it, has tallied $13.4 million so far.

The 2013-14 season ended May 28, with the final week helping the Main Stem to go out on a Memorial Day high. Totals for last week alone came in at $30.9 million for 35 shows on the boards, and attendance hit 91%.

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