The Lion King

"The Lion King" broke records at Overture Center, selling 99 percent of available tickets. 

"Lion King," the blockbuster Disney musical that took over Overture Center from May 10-June 5, has broken records for the arts center. 

"This is the biggest selling show in Overture's history," said Lex Poppens, Overture's vice president of marketing and sales. "It's amazing where we pulled from — a lot of Chicago, two people from my hometown in Princeton, Illinois."

When "Lion King" toured to Madison in 2010, the show sold 97 percent of available seats. This time, it sold 99 percent.

Overture officials said the show grossed more than $5 million at the box office and served some 70,000 people during 32 performances. Out of the entire run, the box office counted only 195 unsold seats.

For context, the capacity of Overture Hall is usually 2,211. With seats removed to make aisles for the animal procession in the opening of "Lion King" and boxes blocked off for singing antelopes, capacity for this show was about 2,175 for each performance. 

How much the show generated for local businesses was likely substantial. The Touring Broadway League, which surveys audience behavior, estimated in 2012-13 that national tours have an impact of more than three percent (3.27) of gross ticket sales. That would mean "Lion King" brought $16 million to the region in travel, hotels, restaurants, parking and more. 

Those sales included 10,000 new ticket-buying households, or those with no history of buying tickets at Overture in the past 11 years. 


Full house at the The Lion King! #overture #overturecenter #madison #thelionking

A photo posted by Alex Miranda Cruz🌛 (@alexmirandacruz) on Jun 4, 2016 at 6:06pm PDT

"It's amazing to see people responding to this show, and their experience at Overture," Poppens said. "It says a lot about the community and the area that we serve that they're going to come from as far away as Illinois and Iowa ... we counted 32 responding states," likely including some parents of graduating University of Wisconsin-Madison students.  

After a run like this, theatergoers shouldn't be surprised to see "Lion King" back in Madison in a few years. Exactly when is up to the touring company, Overture's own capacity and Broadway Across America, which books the tours. 

Poppens said renewals have been strong for the 2016-17 season, which includes an updated production of "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella," "Jersey Boys," "The Book of Mormon" and a Carole King musical called "Beautiful." 

Food editor and arts writer Lindsay Christians has been writing for the Cap Times since 2008. She hosts the food podcast The Corner Table and runs a program for student theater critics. Member @AFJEats and @ATCA. She/ her/ hers.