While Disney continues to deny, strongly, the New York Post rumor that The Lion King is so popular the producers might put a second, simultaneous company on Broadway, and while they've been extremely secretive to the press on the show's advance and wrap figures, Variety reports (Nov. 24) that if nothing else, Lion King is, indeed, smashing box office records.
The daily wrap for Nov. 14 was $2.7 million -- $1.5 million higher than the last record: Disney's Beauty And The Beast. That figure includes tickets sold for future months. and includes tickets sold over phone lines.
For the week ending Nov. 16, The Lion King sold $644,121 worth of tickets, ranking only behind Titanic, Chicago and The Phantom Of The Opera. The figure is especially impressive because it was the week Lion King finished previews and had its opening night -- performances that traditionally have a large contingent of free press seats. Figures for the first full week of regular performances will be available Nov. 25.
As for speculation on a Lion King doppelganger, New York Post writer Ward Morehouse III gave no official sources for the rumor. Lion King spokesperson Jackie Green offered this official statement from Peter Schneider, President of Walt Disney Theatrical: "We are thrilled by the success at the New Amsterdam Theatre -- and categorically deny the New York Post story."
The NY Post based its story on a comment by an unnamed "Disney insider" that it would make "serious sense to consider a second Broadway company of the show," with no firmer commitment than that. The newspaper also quotes a Lion King set builder at Hudson Scenic saying, "Anything's possible." He adds that Lion King would pose special problems because there are so few available theatres, and because the epic staging requires vast storage space.
Having two production of the same show on Broadway would be unusual, but not unprecedented. In November 1996, producers Fran and Barry Weissler put two Grease! companies on Broadway, one at the Eugene O'Neill, and one in limited run at City Center. According to Playbill records, in 1917, the touring company of hot ticket Maytime booked a theatre directly across West 44th Street from the original Broadway production, and the two played simultaneously.
The NY Post also speculates that if the producers can't bring Lion King II to Broadway, they might as for special clearance from Actors Equity to do extra performances each week.
As of the week ending Nov. 16 (most of which was still in previews), The Lion King sold $644,121 worth of tickets. Ticket sales have been much brisker since the opening, with daily lines in front of the New Amsterdam Theatre on West 42nd Street.
The Post noted that the $15 million musical has a $40 million advance and will open its first road company in Los Angeles in October 1998.