‘The Lion King’ Musical is the Most Successful Piece of Entertainment in History

If you live in New York and have ever witnessed the mobs outside the Minskoff theater on Broadway minutes before showtime, news that the stage version of  “The Lion King” is lucrative shouldn’t come as a shock. What might? That it’s generated the highest box office total of any singular piece of entertainment in history, with a worldwide take of over $6.2 billion. NAAAA SABENYA, indeed.

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The musical—based on Disney’s beautiful 1994 animated movie—opened on Broadway in 1997, but has since expanded all over the world, and has exceeded the film version’s earnings, which are almost at $1 billion.

To put it into perspective, “The Lion King” musical—which was directed by visionary Julie Taymor and uses highly stylized puppetry, masks and ancient theater techniques—is now more valuable than each “Harry Potter” movie, “Star Wars,” “Titanic,” and “Avatar,” the highest-grossing film in history with about $2.8 billion worldwide, according to Disney.

The show—which features music by Elton John—took over top spot from the $6 billion-earning “The Phantom of the Opera” late this summer.

It’s a pretty major feat for a live show, and it deserves credit for remaining a compelling piece of theater, rather than a theme-park spectacle like so many other Disney stage adaptations.

Check out an abbreviated version of the show’s opening number “The Circle of Life” below, from its 10-year celebration at the 2008 Tony awards.