'Lion King' Is Broadway's First $1 Billion Show

Lion King Broadway Stage - H 2013

Lion King Broadway Stage - H 2013

Disney's musical relies on consistency, not sky-high prices, to hit a historic milestone.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The Lion King is about to claim a big crown. The Disney musical that kicked off Broadway's obsession with movies is on pace to become this month the first show to reach $1 billion in cumulative gross. It had collected more than $997 million from its New York shows as of Oct. 6, almost exactly 16 years after its first preview performance on Oct. 15, 1997.

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Lion King's success can't solely be attributed to its longevity -- it will soon overtake Les Miserables as just the fifth-longest-running show of all time -- nor to inflated ticket prices. Even with the adoption of premium seating a decade ago, Lion King pricing remains middle-of-the-pack, averaging $130 per seat with a peak price of $199, compared with $171 and $477 for The Book of Mormon.

Instead the family-friendly musical has been rewarded by consistency, playing to packed or standing-room-only houses and dipping below 80 percent capacity fewer than a dozen times in more than 6,600 shows. (Typical Broadway musical production costs are $600,000 to $700,000 a week.)

"This humbling milestone is a testament to the vision and artistry of [director] Julie Taymor," says producer and Disney Theatrical Group president Thomas Schumacher. Taymor's Tony-winning direction and the property's worldwide recognition -- the show has grossed $5 billion across 21 global productions -- have made it very good to be King.