“The Phantom of the Opera” is going to continue haunting Broadway a while longer.
The musical — the longest-running show in Broadway history — announced in September that it would close in February, ending a storied run shortly after celebrating its 35th anniversary.
But immediately after the closing was announced, ticket sales spiked. And last week, when Broadway was bolstered by Thanksgiving travelers, “Phantom” enjoyed its highest-grossing week ever: $2.2 million.
So on Tuesday the show’s producer, Cameron Mackintosh, plans to announce an eight-week extension of the run, to April 16.
“What a phenomenal response there has been to the show ending,” Mackintosh said in a telephone interview on Monday. “We’ve sold out virtually everything that we have on sale.”
And why not run forever? The answer is simple: Until the closing announcement, the show was not selling enough tickets to defray its rising running costs. The slow return of audiences to Broadway following the pandemic and rising inflation were both contributing factors.
“For most of last year, we were losing every week,” Mackintosh said. “There comes a point when you become theatrical wallpaper. People took it for granted that it’s going to run forever.”
The turnabout at the box office has been significant. The week before the closing plan was announced, the show grossed $867,997. After the announcement, the numbers began to climb: $1.2 million during the week that ended Sept. 25, $1.5 million during the week that ended Oct. 9, nearly $1.8 million during the week that ended Nov. 20.
Those driving the surge in sales include people who have seen the show before but want to catch it again before the closing, as well as those who have never seen it and realize it’s now(ish) or never.
“The reason it is sold out is because it’s coming off, absolutely,” Mackintosh said. “We know that one of the reasons that it’s doing it is because this is your last chance to see the great show.”
Among the recent patrons: Lucas Perez, a 37-year-old smoke shop worker from Manalapan, N.J., who bought a pair of tickets as soon as the closing was announced. He had seen the show twice before — once as an elementary school student, and once as an adult — but wanted to bring his mother, who had never been. They went in mid-October.
“It felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend, to someone I’ll never see again,” Perez said. “I was very nostalgic the whole time. There’s something about the experience of ‘Phantom’ that other shows don’t have.”
Featuring soaring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Phantom” is a Gothic melodrama about a masked music lover who haunts the Paris Opera House and becomes fixated on a young soprano. The Broadway production, directed by Hal Prince, is a large-scale spectacle, with a 27-person orchestra and a famously crashing chandelier, emblematic of an earlier era of hyper-romantic musical theater. In 1988, the year the show opened, it won seven Tony Awards, including the one for best musical.
Christina DiCillo, a 31-year-old Queens resident who works in the advertising department at the website TheaterMania, is a “Phan” — what the show’s superfans call themselves — who has seen the show 46 times so far, and hopes to hit 50 before it closes. She and her twin sister saw a touring production of the show when they were growing up in Buffalo; now they have each seen it repeatedly in multiple locations. (Christina has seen it in London, Las Vegas and South Korea, among other places.)
“I feel bad for people that are just discovering it now,” she said. “The music always gets me, and when I’m there I’m transported. I keep thinking, ‘Maybe this time is the time it won’t feel as magical,’ but every time the chandelier rises you get the chills down your spine. I see a lot of Broadway shows for fun, and some of them are better and some of them are worse, but that’s one I know I’m going to love every time.”
The Broadway run has been seen by 19.9 million people and has grossed $1.3 billion; at the time of its closing it will have had 13,981 performances. According to the production, it has employed about 6,500 people, including 400 actors.
Mackintosh said there would be no further extensions. Following the show’s closing, he said, the Shubert Organization is planning a renovation of the Majestic Theater, where “Phantom” has run since its opening. The show will mark the end of its Broadway run with an April 14 benefit performance to raise money for charities, and a final performance with an audience including alumni and friends of the show.
“Phantom” had a lengthy North American touring life, playing 14,500 performances in 77 cities, and productions are currently onstage in London (where running costs were lowered by reducing the orchestra size) and in Melbourne, Australia. A version in Mandarin is scheduled to open in China next year, and the actor Antonio Banderas is working on a new Spanish-language production.
“It’s not like the show is going anywhere — the show will be done and is being done all over the world, and I’m sure it will come back to America and we’ll do a tour in the future,” Mackintosh said.
And will it return to Broadway? “I’m sure at some point it will,” he said. “It’s a great show, and the great classics do come back.”