The theater staged a pandemic comeback, but the public did not understand the memorandum.
Nearly a year after Broadway raised its curtains, marking the end of more than 18 months of COVID shutdowns, one of its most famous shows announced it was shutting down for good. “The Phantom of the Opera,” the longest-running show in Broadway history, plans to make its final run in February. The not entirely unexpected move marks the end of 35 years at the Majestic Theatre, and an era when many adult moviegoers couldn’t imagine Broadway without the iconic white mask and red rose marquee.
Like many shows across the country, “Phantom” failed to draw the audiences that sustained it before brutal pandemic shutdowns drained the industry of blood. Mixed messages about wearing masks in theaters, ongoing COVID-related cancellations, and a stubborn pattern of audiences staying close to home have combined to create a dangerous landscape for the performing arts.
Many arts leaders reported that, try as they might, very few shows — barring pop culture phenomena like “Hamilton” — were drawing the kind of crowds that could fill the coffers in the long run. “Phantom” was unable to keep up in this harsh new environment, with the New York Post reporting that the show was losing about $1 million per month since its reopening last October.
The show’s website features a pop-up page announcing the news and confirming that the last performance will be on Saturday, February 18. “Phantom” will celebrate its 35th anniversary in January.
“The Phantom of the Opera” opened in 1988 and has had more than 13,700 performances. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, with words by Charles Hart and libretto by Webber and Richard Stilgoe, is based on the 1910 French novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux. The gothic melodrama follows a soprano who is chased by a masked musician who lives in the candlelit underworld of the chambers beneath the Paris Opera.
The show, while not always critically praised, became a beloved Broadway staple and won seven Tony Awards the year it opened, including best musical. Since then, according to figures compiled by the Broadway League and reported by the New York Times, the show has been seen on Broadway for 19.8 million people, and raised $1.3 billion.