Being the top dog in any industry certainly has its benefits. Alongside the perks, however, the pressure to remain on top can often become overbearing and hinder change and creativity. The Lion King and Aladdin are two Disney musicals that are dominating Broadway, one for many years and the other as a relative newcomer. The Lion King has been on Broadway for twenty years, and Aladdin just three. In this time, both shows have exceeded expectations, making large amounts of revenue and increasing their fan-base dramatically. Nonetheless, the threat of competition always remains strong, especially for these market leaders. Despite their past success, The Lion King and Aladdin now face stiff competition from newcomers Frozen, Harry Potter, Anastasia and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. By this time next year there will be six shows on Broadway all chasing the Centennial demographic, with only Harry Potter and Charlie making significant inroads with Millennials and Generation X. It is clear that some of these shows will not survive the slaughter.
The 2018 Newcomers: Frozen and Harry Potter
Spring of 2018 will be an exciting time on The Great White Way as Frozen and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child I and II make their way to the Broadway stage. The long-awaited premiere of both shows will attract millions of fans from all over the world. Disney’s film Frozen has earned over $1.27 billion globally to date at the box office, making it the most successful animation movie of all time. Its signature song “Let It Go” won an Oscar, and Apple announced that the film’s soundtrack was their best-selling album of 2014. The Broadway producers of Frozen have been working relentlessly to ensure that their show lives up to the film’s massive success. In his interview with Fortune Magazine, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger mentioned in regards to Frozen The Musical: “We’re not demanding speed, we’re demanding excellence.” The musical hopes to follow in The Lion King’s footsteps, which reached a record global revenue (including national and international performances) of $6.2 billion in 2014, with approximately $98 million coming from just the Broadway show in NYC each year.
Following an outstanding run in London, it is only right that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child I and II finds its way to Broadway. The show debuted in London in July 2016. Four months of tickets sold out on the first day they were made available, all 250,000 of them. Dedicated fans from all over the world traveled to the West End’s Palace Theatre for the shows’ debut. Stateside, Broadway theatre owners were pushing to lure Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, given its potential and the excellent reviews it received in London. The shows’ Broadway premiere will take place at the Lyric Theatre. The Ambassador Group, which owns the Lyric, plans to spend millions of dollars on renovations to accommodate the shows’ special needs to recreate the Hogwarts School of Wizardry.
The Lion King has been known as a Broadway landmark for nearly two decades, spending this entire time among the top five Broadway shows. The brand has been seen by over 50 million people worldwide. The musical has won over 30 major awards including six Tony Awards, including the coveted award for Best Musical. Weekly grosses at The Lion King average at a whopping $2,045,683. For years, many shows have failed to compete with this Disney classic, but this may all change as of Spring 2017, with the new shows that this season will bring. The introduction of Frozen onto Broadway will give Disney the opportunity to rebound from such Broadway flops such as Tarzan and The Little Mermaid and reclaim the success of other productions such as The Lion King and Newsies. In comparison, Frozen’s animated film surpassed The Lion King movie by earning over $1.27 billion at the global box office, with The Lion King movie making nearly $1 billion worldwide. It is unclear whether Frozen on Broadway will exceed The Lion King on Broadway’s annual gross income of $98 million. Nonetheless, The Lion King ticket sales could be expected to plunge with Frozen hitting the same demographic of young boys, girls and parents alike. Both Frozen and The Cursed Child tickets are expected to sell out fast, much like Hamilton. Parents and children of all ages may fall into the Frozen frenzy. The Cursed Child is expected to bring in an older crowd of driven Potter enthusiasts. This includes fans willing to travel from all over the world to satisfy their wizardly fantasies. Even fans who have already seen the show in London may come to NYC. As The Cursed Child is a series of two straight plays rather than a musical, it is inherently less commercial, but the immortal Harry Potter brand will surely give this double-header a boost.
Aladdin the musical is an adaptation of Disney’s 1992 film, which premiered on Broadway in 2014. The show has since become one of Broadway’s highest grossing shows, with an average weekly gross of $1.5 million. Fans of Aladdin may not be getting their genie wish, as there is a possibility of the show closing in the near future if it does not compete strongly enough with the new shows that hit the same demographic. Disney may be sacrificing Aladdin with the expected success of Frozen. All the leading actors of the show including Adam Jacobs, James Monroe Iglehart and Jonathan Freeman only have contracts through February 19, 2017, so their status is tenuous, although Jacobs and Iglehart were planning to leave anyway, their timing might just be perfect. These original actors have been with the show since its premiere. A potential Aladdin closing in 2018 would be the classic Disney move in response to the debut of Frozen and Harry Potter; rather than allowing the show to run on discounts when people start to lose interest, the company may just decide to close the show and take it on the road and make the money there. This could be a reasonable strategy considering Aladdin‘s Broadway running costs are at approximately $600,000 a week.
Anastasia and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
In addition to the movie behemoths of Frozen and Harry Potter that launch on Broadway in March 2018, there are interim launches of two other Broadway shows in the same demographic space, namely Anastasia and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – which are both scheduled for March 2017. It seems that all the shows hope to capture a slice of the child demographic, but it is unclear if there is enough of this demographic to go around and they may hope to bring in the adult fan, which may work better on Harry Potter than the others, given that the brand has a more universal appeal.
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