The musical The Phantom of the Opera (Phantom) has been on Broadway for over 30 years. And it has been in the West End for even longer. The show has grossed more than Star Wars and has been seen by over 130 million people. But for many years now a question has pegged fans and non-fans of the show. Does Phantom need to close?
Personally, I thought this would be a great piece for me to write because I have no opinion on this. I can see both sides of this argument extremely clearly. I love this show, but it has been open a long time. For one thing, if the show closed it would cause outrage. There are so many huge fans of this show. And I mean, just imagine another show in the Majestic Theatre. There are definitely strong arguments both ways here. Phantom is the longest running Broadway show of all time, and if this show was constantly selling out houses of audiences paying full prices, there wouldn’t really be an argument here.
This show’s ticket sales have definitely gone down noticeably, and discounts are always available last minute for fans and tourists. It seems now that the show is still open because it costs so little to produce now that is has played so long. In fact, I took a look at the grosses for this show in the past few years. Phantom is considered a currently successful Broadway show, so I am only comparing it to musicals that are not closing and are seen as successful shows. In comparison to Wicked, another successful long-running musical that has fully recouped, Wicked ranges from making around $1.6 to $2 million a week, whereas Phantom ranges from $.7 to $1.1 million weekly. In comparison to Mean Girls, a show that is new but very successful, Mean Girls takes in about $1.5 million weekly and has yet to recoup. Since Phantom has recouped, it only has to pay for actors, musicians, crew, any new costumes, wigs, or makeup, royalties, and other small inexpensive things. Phantom doesn’t necessarily need to be making more than it is.
Although I don’t know how much it costs to put on the show weekly, it is definitely making money or at least breaking even. The most I could imagine this show costing to produce is around $300,000 weekly. The show has about 130 cast, crew, and pit members involved and those people are each paid about $2000 weekly on average. And that leaves plenty of money to pay for the smaller things. So here’s the question that comes to mind: Are the producers or the Shubert Organization safer keeping this show open that is less costly to put on even if it makes considerably less money than some other shows, or is it worth it for them to take the risk of bringing in a new show that may or may not be a success?
One of the main arguments for why this show shouldn’t close is because it’s become a signature aspect of Broadway, as if the Great White Way wouldn’t be the same if Phantom closed. This show has been open for 30 years now, and when people think of Broadway, Phantom is one of the top things that comes to mind. I would say this show defines classic, except this show has only existed since 1988. In 1988 the main classical musicals era had long since ended. Shows like Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Little Shop of Horrors had already come into existence. And Phantom itself has rock influences in its music. As shows go, it isn’t really old, and yet it is considered to be a classic.
I haven’t ever seen this show on Broadway because it always feels like that show I will always be able to see. A lot of my friends haven’t seen it for the same reason. But I’m still extremely familiar with the Broadway production through pictures, friends, the Royal Albert Hall recording, and sorry but not sorry, bootlegs. I saw the new tour, which I thought did a brilliant job of fixing some of the problems of the show. The tech elements—which the Broadway production has never made any changes to—were more advanced in the new tour. But the primary change I liked was a younger Phantom. I understand that age doesn’t really matter to a lot of people in relationships, but a younger Phantom creates a more real character who is less creepy, more relatable, and more sympathetic. But still, the Broadway production is special because it is the original. If this show closed on Broadway, I think it would be important that the Broadway production begin a tour.
I didn’t want to make any assumptions on the public’s opinion on this show, so I created a google form and posted it on instagram and on BroadwayWorld.com. As to whether Phantom should close, 65.6% of people thought that it should not, 19.7% thought it should, and 14.8% had no opinion. In the same poll I asked how much people would be willing to pay to see Phantom, and the average was $50.87. On average, other Broadway musicals cost an average on $125 to see.
I don’t know if this show should close. There are so many arguments on both sides of the situation. But I wanted to put this information out so you can choose what you think. Is Phantom so touristy and classical that it should stay open forever, or has it had its fair time on Broadway?