“The Lion King” Slow Ticket Sales and Local Broadway Show Runs

Theater Opinion – July 17, 2022


By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Local ducats to “The Lion King” touring show are selling slowly based on dramatically increased paid television and newspaper advertising.  “The Lion King” was booked for four weeks during its fourth ASU Gammage visit beginning July 5 but ticket sales are sputtering.

Watching a recent “Saturday Night Live” television show saw four lengthy and expensive advertisements for the show.  The next day’s Sunday Arizona Republic Arts and Entertainment section had a front-page color ad after many Sunday “The Lion King” ads over the past several months.  A recent e-mail sent to the ASU Gammage mailing list proclaimed “Great Seats Still Available.”

Paid advertisements for any ASU Gammage attraction are rare because the single week runs of most touring Broadway shows that play here are pre-sold on season subscriptions. “The Lion King” was a non-subscription attraction so there were not many pre-sold tickets.

As has been pointed out before, Phoenix is the fifth largest American city in a metropolitan area in the top 20.  No city the size of the Phoenix metropolitan area has single week runs of touring Broadway shows.  Cities our size host Broadway shows for two to six weeks with several metropolitan areas like Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Orange County, Cincinnati, and San Francisco playing longer or open-ended engagements.  One-week towns are places like Salt Lake City, Tulsa, Las Vegas, and Oklahoma City, all smaller communities than Phoenix.

ASU Gammage management is fearful of extending Broadway show runs to accommodate local demand and the apparently weak “The Lion King” sales give such provincial thinking justification.  It is not fair to compare “The Lion King” to musicals that have never played here before. “The Lion King” has been enormously popular since its Broadway opening but even a hit show won’t sell tickets without a dedicated ticket selling campaign.

There is little if anything the highly paid and large ASU Gammage publicity staff does to sell tickets to extended runs of shows like “The Lion King.”  As long as staid and fearful management remains at ASU Gammage, local demand for touring Broadway shows will never grow nor will local runs rarely exceed a single week.  Extended runs of any Broadway shows don’t have a chance.

Another factor in the poor “The Lion King” sales.  The family-oriented and splashy musical serves as an excellent live theater introduction for young theatergoers.  Like all ASU Gammage shows, “The Lion King’s” tickets are expensive and there are no reductions for young theatergoers.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, for many families to attend such high-priced shows.  With so many “great seats” available wouldn’t it be better to give a young theatergoers discount, even if small, to fill empty seats with revenue producing theatergoers?

It’s a shame that forward thinking and aggressive management of our local concert hall turned live touring theater doesn’t exist.  There are no ASU Gammage staff who want to grow the local audience for touring Broadway attractions.  Interestingly, ASU Gammage refused to respond to questions for this article, a further indication of the lack of transparency by the publicly supported Arizona State University where ASU Gammage operates. Perhaps a call to ASU’s President is in order to stimulate ASU Gammage to operate responsibly as a publicly supported institution so the concert hall can bring shows for runs that local audiences should crave to attend.

Tell readers how you feel about local touring Broadway show runs at ASU Gammage.  Write your remarks below.

One Response to ““The Lion King” Slow Ticket Sales and Local Broadway Show Runs”

  1. ERW said:

    Jul 18, 22 at 08:10

    I would love to bring my students but the tickets plus bus transportation costs are too high for the majority of students. I wish they offered student discount tickets that are truly discounted.
    I would create a field trip each fall and spring to see an amazing show at the Gammage.