15 Biggest Broadway Hits of All Time

The 15 Biggest Broadway Hits

Broadway is a It is estimated that only 20 to 30 percent of Broadway shows turn a profit, but the ones that do can mean big money for producers and investors. According to the industry’s trade association, Broadway grossed more than $1 billion in the 2009-2010 season. Attendance reached nearly 12 million, topping that of the ten professional New York and New Jersey sports teams put together. So which Broadway productions have been the biggest moneymakers of all time? CNBC enlisted the help of th
Photo: Mitchell Funk | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

Broadway is a business marked by triumphs and tragedies.It is estimated that only 20 to 30 percent of Broadway shows turn a profit, but the ones that do can mean big money for producers and investors.

According to the industry’s trade association, The Broadway League,Broadway grossed more than $1 billion in the 2009-2010 season. Attendance reached nearly 12 million, topping that of the ten professional New York and New Jersey sports teams put together.

So which Broadway productions have been the biggest moneymakers of all time? CNBC enlisted the help of the Broadway League to find out. Its rankings are based on cumulative gross (not adjusted for inflation) from opening night to either the time of its close or the end of the 2009-2010 season.

Click ahead to see which 15 came out on top!

By Brooke Sopelsa
Posted 15 Oct 2010

Note: Total gross was calculated by adding each show’s total net gross for 2008-2009 and seasons prior to the gross gross for 2009-2010 (if applicable). Average paid admission was calculated by dividing the show's gross by its attendance for the final week of the 2009-10 season (for shows that are currently running) or by dividing the show's gross by the attendance for the final week of its run (for shows that are no longer running). Performance counts do not include previews.

15. Monty Python’s Spamalot

Gross: $168.1 million Average Ticket Price: $70.55 Broadway Run: 2005 - 2009 Total # of Performances: 1,575 “Spamalot” proudly claims to be a “musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail.'” Academy Award-winning director Mike Nichols, whose credits include "The Graduate" and "Who’s Afraid of Virgina Wolf?,” directed the Broadway production.
Photo: Ryan Miller | Getty Images

Gross: $168.1 million
Average Paid Admission: $70.55
Broadway Run: 2005 - 2009
Total # of Performances: 1,575

“Spamalot” proudly claims to be a “musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail.'” Academy Award-winning director Mike Nichols, whose credits include "The Graduate" and "Who’s Afraid of Virgina Wolf?,” directed the Broadway production.

14. Mary Poppins

Gross: $169.1 million Average Ticket Price: $70.44 Broadway Run: 2006 - Present Total # of Performances: 1,469 “Mary Poppins,” based on a series of children’s books by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film, marks the first collaboration between Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, legendary producer of "Phantom of the Opera," "Cats" and "Les Miserables.”
Photo: David Bennet | Getty Images

Gross: $169.1 million
Average Paid Admission: $70.44
Broadway Run: 2006 - Present
Total # of Performances: 1,469

“Mary Poppins,” based on a series of children’s books by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film, marks the first collaboration between Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, legendary producer of "Phantom of the Opera," "Cats" and "Les Miserables.”

13. Hairspray

Gross: $252.2 million Average Ticket Price: $80.58 Broadway Run: 2002 - 2009 Total # of Performances: 2,642 Set in Baltimore in 1962, "Hairspray" tells the story of a plump teen, whose only desire is to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. The musical is based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name.
Photo: Bruce Gilkas | FilmMagic | Getty Images

Gross: $252.2 million
Average Paid Admission: $80.58
Broadway Run: 2002 - 2009
Total # of Performances: 2,642

Set in Baltimore in 1962, "Hairspray" tells the story of a plump teen, whose only desire is to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. The musical is based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name.

12. Jersey Boys

Gross: $261.6 million Average Ticket Price: $113.47 Broadway Run: 2005 - Present Total # of Performances: 1,873 Based on the true story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, "Jersey Boys" is a rags-to-riches tale of four blue-collar kids working their way from the streets of Newark, N.J., to the heights of stardom.
Photo: Brad Barket | Getty Images

Gross: $261.6 million
Average Paid Admission: $113.47
Broadway Run: 2005 - Present
Total # of Performances: 1,873

Based on the true story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, "Jersey Boys" is a rags-to-riches tale of four blue-collar kids working their way from the streets of Newark, N.J., to the heights of stardom.

11. Rent

Gross: $274.2 million Average Ticket Price: $77.75 Broadway Run: 1996 - 2008 Total # of Performances: 5,123 "Rent," a rock opera based on Puccini’s "La Boheme," concerns struggling young artists and musicians in New York’s East Village. "Rent" won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and four 1996 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Photo: Bruce Gilkas | FilmMagic | Getty Images

Gross: $274.2 million
Average Paid Admission: $77.75
Broadway Run: 1996 - 2008
Total # of Performances: 5,123

"Rent," a rock opera based on Puccini’s "La Boheme," concerns struggling young artists and musicians in New York’s East Village. "Rent" won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and four 1996 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

10. Miss Saigon

Gross: $285.8 million Average Ticket Price: $65.71 Broadway Run: 1991 - 2001 Total # of Performances: 4,092 "Miss Saigon,” based on Puccini’s opera "Madame Butterfly,” is about a doomed romance, involving an Asian woman abandoned by her American lover. "Miss Saigon" has played in 25 countries and 246 cities.
Photo: Getty Images

Gross: $285.8 million
Average Paid Admission: $65.71
Broadway Run: 1991 - 2001
Total # of Performances: 4,092

"Miss Saigon,” based on Puccini’s opera "Madame Butterfly,” is about a doomed romance, involving an Asian woman abandoned by her American lover. "Miss Saigon" has played in 25 countries and 246 cities.

9. The Producers

Gross: $288.4 million Average Ticket Price: $67.48 Broadway Run: 2001 - 2007 Total # of Performances: 2,502 Winner of a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards, "The Producers" tells the tale of two theatrical producers who scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop. The musical was adapted from a 1968 Mel Brooks film of the same name.
Photo: Greg Wood | AFP | Getty Images

Gross: $288.4 million
Average Paid Admission: $67.48
Broadway Run: 2001 - 2007
Total # of Performances: 2,502

Winner of a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards, "The Producers" tells the tale of two theatrical producers who scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop. The musical was adapted from a 1968 Mel Brooks film of the same name.

8. Cats

Gross: $366.4 million Average Ticket Price: $59.56 Broadway Run: 1982 - 2000 Total # of Performances: 7,485 "Cats,” the second longest-running musical on Broadway, is based on "Old Possum’s Book on Practical Cats" by the poet T.S. Eliot.
Photo: AP

Gross: $366.4 million
Average Paid Admission: $59.56
Broadway Run: 1982 - 2000
Total # of Performances: 7,485

"Cats,” the second longest-running musical on Broadway, is based on "Old Possum’s Book on Practical Cats" by the poet T.S. Eliot.

7. Chicago (revival)

Gross: $377.4 million Average Ticket Price: $77.72 Broadway Run: 1996 - Present Total # of Performances: 5,612 Winner of six 1996 Tony Awards, "Chicago" is set in the 1920s and tells the story of two rival murderesses, who cross paths in county jail. The main characters are modeled after real-life murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner.
Photo: Ben Hider | Getty Images

Gross: $377.4 million
Average Paid Admission: $77.72
Broadway Run: 1996 - Present
Total # of Performances: 5,612

Winner of six 1996 Tony Awards, "Chicago" is set in the 1920s and tells the story of two rival murderesses, who cross paths in county jail. The main characters are modeled after real-life murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner.

6. Les Miserables (original)

Gross: $406.3 million Average Ticket Price: $80.76 Broadway Run: 1987 - 2003 Total # of Performances: 6,680 Winner of eight 1987 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, "Les Miserables" is set in 19th -century France and focuses on the struggles of an ex-convict and his search for redemption. Les Mis, as it became known, has played in 42 countries and 291 cities.
Photo: AP

Gross: $406.3 million
Average Paid Admission: $80.76
Broadway Run: 1987 - 2003
Total # of Performances: 6,680

Winner of eight 1987 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, "Les Miserables" is set in 19th -century France and focuses on the struggles of an ex-convict and his search for redemption. Les Mis, as it became known, has played in 42 countries and 291 cities.

5. Mamma Mia!

Gross: $416.9 million Average Ticket Price: $83.14 Broadway Run: 2001 - Present Total # of Performances: 3,560 "Mamma Mia!" uses the music of Swedish 70s pop group ABBA to tell the story of a bride-to-be trying to find her real father. The Broadway musical inspired a 2008 movie of the same name.
Photo: Bruce Gilkas | FilmMagic | Getty Images

Gross: $416.9 million
Average Paid Admission: $83.14
Broadway Run: 2001 - Present
Total # of Performances: 3,560

"Mamma Mia!" uses the music of Swedish 70s pop group ABBA to tell the story of a bride-to-be trying to find her real father. The Broadway musical inspired a 2008 movie of the same name.

4. Beauty and the Beast

Gross: $429.2 million Average Ticket Price: $86.20 Broadway Run: 1994 - 2007 Total # of Performances: 5,461 Based on the 1991 animated film, "Beauty and the Beast" was the first Disney musical to arrive on Broadway.
Photo: Jamie McCarthy | WireImage | Getty Images

Gross: $429.2 million
Average Paid Admission: $86.20
Broadway Run: 1994 - 2007
Total # of Performances: 5,461

Based on the 1991 animated film, "Beauty and the Beast" was the first Disney musical to arrive on Broadway.

3. Wicked

Gross: $467.6 million Average Ticket Price: $108.90 Broadway Run: 2003 - Present Total performances: 2,718 "Wicked" is the untold musical story of "The Wizard of Oz’s" Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch, prior to the Dorothy years. The musical is loosely based on the best-selling novel " Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," by Gregory Maguire.
Photo: Torsten Blackwood | AFP | Getty Images

Gross: $467.6 million
Average Paid Admission: $108.90
Broadway Run: 2003 - Present
Total performances: 2,718

"Wicked" is the untold musical story of "The Wizard of Oz’s" Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch, prior to the Dorothy years. The musical is loosely based on the best-selling novel " Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," by Gregory Maguire.

2. The Lion King

Gross: $699.1 million Average Ticket Price: $104.85 Broadway Run: 1997 - Present Total Performances: 5,197 Based on the 1994 Disney animated film, "The Lion King" is the story of a young lion prince in Africa, who is sent into exile after his father is sabotaged by his evil uncle. The Broadway show won six 1998 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Photo: Getty Images

Gross: $699.1 million
Average Paid Admission: $104.85
Broadway Run: 1997 - Present
Total Performances: 5,197

Based on the 1994 Disney animated film, "The Lion King" is the story of a young lion prince in Africa, who is sent into exile after his father is sabotaged by his evil uncle. The Broadway show won six 1998 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

1. Phantom of the Opera

Gross: $770.0 million Average Ticket Price: $76.75 Broadway Run: 1988 - Present Total Performances: 9,283 Winner of seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “Phantom of the Opera” is the tale of a disfigured musical genius, who becomes obsessed with a beautiful soprano at a Paris opera house. In 2006, it surpassed “Cats” as the longest-running musical in Broadway history.
Photo: AP

Gross: $770.0 million
Average Paid Admission: $76.75
Broadway Run: 1988 - Present
Total Performances: 9,283

Winner of seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “Phantom of the Opera” is the tale of a disfigured musical genius, who becomes obsessed with a beautiful soprano at a Paris opera house. In 2006, it surpassed “Cats” as the longest-running musical in Broadway history.