Disney's 'The Lion King' Becomes History's Top-Grossing Entertainment Title

Lion King Broadway Stage - H 2013

Lion King Broadway Stage - H 2013

The Julie Taymor-directed production has earned $6.2 billion in worldwide box office to date

Just under a year ago, Disney's The Lion King became the first Broadway production to cross the $1 billion mark. Now the globally successful stage musical has become the highest-earning entertainment property in history in any medium, with a worldwide gross of $6.2 billion.

The Associated Press reported on Monday that Julie Taymor's unstoppable production, which opened on Broadway in 1997 and has been playing to capacity houses in New York, on tour and in international engagements ever since, has nabbed the top spot from another long-running musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. That show's global haul stands at $6 billion.

Its cumulative worldwide box office places The Lion King way ahead of history's top-grossing film, Avatar, which earned $2.8 billion, as well as other blockbusters like Titanic or any of the individual Star Wars or Harry Potter titles.

Taymor's Broadway production won six Tony Awards in 1998, including best musical and direction. According to data compiled by Disney, the show has now been seen by more than 75 million people in 22 global productions.

The $6.2 billion total does not include additional revenue streams, such as merchandise or CDs. Nor does it include grosses for the 1994 animated feature that spawned the stage musical, which has notched up worldwide box office of $987.5 million.

"It's difficult not to become emotional at this realization of the show's impact," said Thomas Schumacher, president and producer at Disney Theatrical Productions, recalling the musical's path from four downtown New York rehearsal rooms in May 1997.

"Our goal then was to tell the story purely and theatrically so that audiences could feel it in their hearts. And, to this day, that is the audience experience whether they see the show in Madrid; Appleton, Wisconsin; South Africa; Tokyo or Broadway. Of that, we are deeply proud."

There are currently 10 productions of The Lion King playing around the world, including New York, London, Tokyo, Hamburg and the North American tour.

The Broadway production has shown increased attendance in four of the last five years, while London revenues have climbed 6 percent in the same period, and the most recent North American tour is up by 11 percent.