NEW YORK - After 35 years and almost 14,000 performances, the curtain fell for the final time Sunday on the longest-running show in Broadway history -- "The Phantom of the Opera."
Since opening in January 1988, Andrew Lloyd Webber's megahit musical has wowed New Yorkers and tourists alike, becoming a symbol of the famous theater district.
The melodrama about a disfigured genius who haunts the Paris Opera House and whose heart aches for the young soprano Christine has been seen by 20 million people and grossed over $1.4 billion in ticket sales.
But producers decided it was time to end the record-breaking run after the show struggled to rebound from Broadway's 18-month closure during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The show, adapted from Gaston Leroux's French novel of the same name, won seven 1988 Tony Awards, including best musical, and became the longest-running show in Broadway history on January 9, 2006.
The production estimates that it has employed 6,500 people, including 450 actors, over the years.
Sunday's show in front of a sold-out crowd at the Majestic Theatre off Times Square was performance number 13,981.
The 1,600-strong audience stood and applauded wildly as Lloyd Webber joined original and current cast members on the stage for the final curtain call.
British producer Cameron Mackintosh told the New York Times in September last year that the production began incurring losses due to the slow return of international visitors to the Big Apple after the pandemic.
Rising production costs, which were at $950,000 net a week, were also a factor.
It takes about 125 actors, musicians and technicians to put on the musical, which sees a chandelier crash to the stage during one of its most memorable acts.
"There comes a point, with any show, where there is a tipping point, where the number of good weeks has declined sufficiently that actually it's outweighed by the number of losing weeks, and at that point there's only one sensible decision to make," Mackintosh said.
The announcement that "Phantom" was to end its run boosted demand for tickets so much that the closing date was pushed back from February to April.
In the run-up to the final performance this week, the last tickets were selling for more than $500 on booking sites.
Extensive renovations are now due to begin at the Majestic Theatre.
The accolade for longest-running musical on Broadway now belongs to "Chicago," which premiered in 1996, ahead of "The Lion King," which opened the following year.
The 41 Broadway theaters near Times Square that make up New York's cultural and touristic heart average between 200,000 and 300,000 spectators every week, bringing in more than $30 million in weekly revenue.
"The Phantom of the Opera" premiered in 1986 in London, where it continues to be performed.