The Lion King has become the top-grossing musical of all time with more than $6.2 billion earned globally. This success shows just how The Walt Disney Company continues to drive the Broadway musical business.
“Disney has had a major influence on the success of Broadway over the past two decades,” said Ken Davenport, a Broadway producer and author of the blog theproducersperspective.com.
It all started with the movie Beauty and the Beast, Davenport explained, which Disney created as a new classic musical for parents to watch with their children – then extended the brand to the stage.
Disney took over and restored the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street in 1993, contributing to a major clean-up of Times Square under New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Beauty and the Beast opened in April 1994 and ran for 14 straight years.
“They did the same thing with The Lion King and Aladdin,” said Davenport. “So kids now can fall in love with a movie and then see the show as well.”
Given all this, it’s no wonder Disney’s recent smash hit film Frozen is being developed into a stage musical.
The resurgence of Broadway and the mind-boggling figures such as The Lion King’s total gross is a testament to just how global the audience for musicals has become. Beauty and the Beast has played to more than 35 million people in 13 countries; for many of the top musicals, Broadway represents only a fraction of worldwide sales. For instance, The Lion King’s Broadway box office of $1.09 billion as of mid-September, according to BroadwayWorld.com, is less than 18 percent of its worldwide gross.
The Phantom of the Opera, the second highest grossing musical ever (and a non-Disney production, of course) had similar earnings.
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