11:45 am EDT, March 16, 2016

‘Wicked’ hits $1 billion on Broadway

By Irvin K

Wicked just became the third Broadway show to gross a billion dollars, doing so in a record time of twelve and a half years.

The enormous hit is one of the most lucrative entertainment properties ever, having been seen by over 50 million worldwide in English, German, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese and grossing over four billion dollars along the way. It has broken more records than can be counted, and the Broadway show was the first to ever gross $3 million in a single week. Ordinarily, Wicked’s weekly grosses hover around a million and a half, battling for supremacy with Lion King, Book of Mormon, and more recently Hamilton.

The good news keeps pouring in for the popular musical – a month ago, it surpassed Rent to become the tenth-longest-running Broadway show of all time. It has played over 5,100 performances to 9.2 million people on its way to a billion on Broadway. Next up on the chart is Beauty and the Beast with 5461 performances; Wicked will hit that mark in nine months.

The first Broadway show to ever hit a billion dollars was Lion King, which passed the milestone in 2013 after sixteen years. Lion King is still the most lucrative show in Broadway’s history, having grossed $1.24 billion to date and having been seen by 12.9 million people. Disney knows how to make a hit – Aladdin has been raking in money for the last two years, and we’ll doubtless be having the billion-dollar conversation about Frozen in a decade’s time.

The other billion-dollar-biggie is Phantom of the Opera, which has been chugging along since 1988 and is the longest-running Broadway show ever. It hit the milestone last year (27 years), and is now up to $1.04 billion. To be fair, inflation ensured that its original grosses were nowhere near the levels of today; on the way to its billion it was seen by an astounding 17 million people.

These three shows – Wicked, Phantom, and Lion King – are really in a class of their own in terms of success. Only three other shows have even made half a billion at the box office, and there’s a very big gap – Chicago ($548 million), Jersey Boys ($526 million), and the dearly departed Mamma Mia ($624 million). These figures also prove there is more money to be made in theatre than in movies: no film has ever made a billion dollars in the United States, though Force Awakens made a good run at it.

Wicked’s continued success is part of the reason no film version has been made – generally, Broadway musicals are adapted into films when the box office needs a boost (think Chicago, Phantom, Hairspray, Jersey Boys, etc.) Since Wicked’s box office needs no boosting, it may be some time before a film is released. The Hollywood Reporter confirmed there is no news on the film front as of now.

Did you contribute to Wicked’s billion on Broadway, or see it elsewhere?

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