By Mark Kennedy, AP
NEW YORK–Broadway’s highest grossing show in 2013 wasn’t a new strutting musical or a bawdy one or even one with a big star. The crown goes to a regal but gray-maned performer — “The Lion King,” now in its 16th year. And another veteran turned heads when “Wicked” recorded Broadway’s highest single-week gross ever.
The old-timers are going just fine, end-of-year-data from the Broadway League released Monday showed. The 10-year-old “Wicked” earned a staggering US$3.2 million over nine performances for the week ending Sunday, the first time a show has ever crossed the US$3 million mark in a single week.
Another pro, Elton John and Tim Rice’s “The Lion King,” ruled all other shows during the entire calendar year, ending with nearly US$97 million, despite the fact that there are five bigger theaters on Broadway. For good measure, the show pulled in US$2.8 million over nine performances last week, a theater record.
Several other shows — including current Tony winner “Kinky Boots,” the 2011 Tony winner “The Book of Mormon,” the new acrobatic revival of “Pippin,” the sizzling “Betrayal” and the veteran “Chicago” — all finished 2013 with box office records.
“Kinky Boots,” with songs by Cyndi Lauper and a story by Harvey Fierstein, earned a whopping US$2.2 million over its nine-performance week, smashing the Al Hirschfeld Theatre record. The revival of “Pippin” also ended the year with a bang: It earned US$1.2 million for its eight-show week ending Sunday, a house record for the Music Box Theatre.
“The Book of Mormon,” which took in US$90.4 million for the year, set a weekly haul record with US$2.1 million over eight shows ending Sunday at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, and that old murderously wicked “Chicago” showed lots of life by pulling in US$1 million over eight shows, a record at the Ambassador Theatre for a musical in its 18th year.
The revival of Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall not only broke its own weekly record by pulling in US$1.4 million over nine shows but producers also crowed that the show had made history as having the best single week for a play ever on Broadway, beating the Tom Hanks-led “Lucky Guy” that earned US$1.4 million this spring.
The numbers overall were boosted by steadily increasing ticket prices, high demand from tourists swelling Times Square, reconfigured seating in some theaters and the use of premium-priced seating, in which some tickets are snapped up for very high amounts.
The win for “The Lion King” is just the latest accolade for the show. This year it became the first Broadway show to earn US$1 billion, and last year it swiped the title of Broadway’s all-time highest-grossing show from “The Phantom of the Opera.” It is the fourth longest-running Broadway show, behind only “Chicago,” “Cats” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”