Broadway may not be churning hit after hit like Hollywood does, but for these long-time players, their stage outings have been one smooth ride. Here are Broadway’s highest grossing musicals of all time.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is the most expensive musical ever made, costing 75 million dollars. On an average, though, each musical is made at a cost of anywhere between 10 to 15 million dollars.
Apart from being a popular tourist attraction in the Big Apple, the Broadway Theater District is also a major revenue generator, throwing up more than $1 billion in ticket sales annually. Broadway shows have withstood competition from all quarters, including the talkies, and have clearly survived it all. Well, more than survived, if the sales figures are anything to go by.
Today, Broadway musicals are all about the glitz and glamor, combined with extravagant visuals and racy music. When it comes to listing the highest earners in recent times, several factors come into play; for instance, the longest running may not always be the highest earning production. Putting this to rest, we’ve complied a list of shows that have ranked high on popularity, and have also set the cash registers ringing.
Highest Grossing Broadway Musicals
The Lion King
Having grossed $853.8 million, The Lion King became the highest grossing musical on Broadway in 2012, edging out The Phantom of the Opera.
Elton John’s music powers the theatrical version of Disney’s The Lion King, just like the original animated film. It officially opened on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre on November 13, 1997. More than 5,000 shows later, it is still going strong, pulling in family audiences and providing wholesome entertainment.
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera celebrated its 25th anniversary on 26 January, 2013, with its 10,400th performance at the Majestic Theatre.
The longest running show on Broadway is also one of its biggest earners, certainly no surprises there. The Phantom of the Opera is based on Gaston Leroux’s novel, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. It has been set to tune by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Charles Hart. The play’s worldwide gross earnings amount to $5.6 billion, the highest for any musical. Its Broadway earnings tally up to $845 million, and have been only recently surpassed by the previous musical on our list.
Wicked is currently running to packed houses on Broadway’s huge Gershwin Theatre, commanding an average ticket price of $138.
Wicked is based on a novel that draws inspiration from The Wizard of Oz. The Broadway and West End versions compete with one another, and the shows are known to smash their previous records of highest weekly earnings. The last week of 2012 saw Wicked pull in a cool $2.9 million, making this the highest weekly earning for a Broadway musical.
Cats enjoyed an uninterrupted run on Broadway from 1982 to 2000, earning a whopping $366.4 million from its 7,000+ performances.
Cats ranks only behind The Phantom of the Opera as the longest running musical on Broadway. Another masterpiece by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cats is unique in the sense that it relies entirely on its lyrics set to the musical score, with no dialogs between the songs. The play is based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a personal favorite of Mr. Webber.
Chicago: The Musical
Owing to its minimal production costs, Chicago: The Musical set a record for recovering its cost faster than any other musical.
Chicago’s second run on Broadway proved far more fruitful to the production than its previous outing in the seventies. With the audiences becoming cheekier at the turn of the century, they certainly warmed up to Chicago’s risque theme. It has earned around $380 million from more than 6,000 shows this far.
This production cost $4.5 million to make, and had notched up more than $4 million in advance ticket sales before its New York premiere in 1987.
Set on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, Les Mis is remembered for its heart-wrenching storyline set in 19th century France. A few revivals and a celluloid version later, the audiences are still not tired of watching Les Misérables, seeing that the musical is due to return to Broadway’s Imperial Theatre in 2014.
Mamma Mia! opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on 18 October, 2001, and is still running to packed houses.
This hit musical features several hit songs of the pop band ABBA, and has grossed over $2 billion worldwide, a stupendous record to hold. This success prompted a film adaptation which was also a big hit with the audiences.
Beauty and the Beast
Another stellar production from Disney Theatrical, it remains the longest running production at the Palace Theatre and the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
This fairytale has inspired several school productions due to its enduring storyline. The Beauty and the Beast was also the first Disney musical to be staged on Broadway. The show came to an end on Broadway only when Disney came out with their next musical, The Little Mermaid.
Miss Saigon’s most spectacular scene shows the last of the Americans being evacuated from the embassy roof by helicopter, with several Vietnamese watching in despair.
Miss Saigon is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, and is an ill-fated love story which sees a Vietnamese woman abandoned by her American lover. It opened on Broadway Theatre on 11 April, 1991, and closed on 28 January, 2001, after 4,092 performances.
The Producers broke the record for the largest single day box-office ticket sales in theatre history, gathering over $3.5 million.
This humorous musical is based on the 1968 film that featured Mel Brooks. It ran on Broadway from 2001 to 2007, winning a record-breaking 12 Tony awards. The Producers garnered a neat sum of around $290 million from its 2,502 performances on Broadway.
These were some sterling Broadway musicals that have offered unmatched entertainment to theater patrons for several years now, and it is only justified that they’ve ended up making the kind of money they have.