Aucklanders are flocking to the record-breaking, all-singing, all-dancing Lion King production - and in turn helping the operators of Covid-affected Spark Arena rewrite their business playbook.
Already the world's highest-grossing musical theatre with more than 100 million tickets sold, the Lion King has now also become New Zealand's fastest-ever seller after opening on June 24.
Mark Kneebone, managing director of Live Nation - the operator of Auckland's Spark Arena - expected it to sell well over 120,000 tickets during its three-week Auckland run.
That's been part of a life-saving pivot by the 12,000-seat indoor stadium towards hosting month-long shows after Covid-19 shut off the supply of one-off international touring acts last year.
That pivot included Live Nation selling more than 250,000 tickets to its Van Gogh Alive showcase about the famous painter - a record attendance for a New Zealand exhibition - and even hosting a church service and university graduation.
"Everyone has been forced to go back and stare at a blank piece of paper about how they are going to run their business," Kneebone said of the creativity needed to meet the Covid challenges facing the events industry.
Yet those blank pieces of paper haven't always yielded answers.
Not only did big, international acts stop touring last year, but each time New Zealand plunged into lockdown, large events were among the first to cancel and last to open back up.
That helped deliver a death-blow to Auckland's ASB Showgrounds - one of the country's biggest venues - which went into liquidation late last month.
The showgrounds had been hosting events for more than 160 years, but as of March this year, it had lost four major shows, including the Home Show and Royal Easter Show.
Last year, 14 major events were cancelled because of the pandemic, plus 11 smaller shows and concerts as the venue also battled rising rent costs.
The liquidation came shortly before organisers of the annual ASB Classic tennis tournament announced they were cancelling 2022's event - the second year running the tournament had been canned.
"Any perception of returning to how the market used to be is gone," Kneebone said of the way forward.
Yet there was room for hope.
He expected 2022, 2023 and 2024 to turn into bumper years - if not record years - for the events industry.
That made it a matter of surviving through until then.
While 2020 had been a bleak year, Live Nation had been able to host some of the first post-pandemic outbreak stadium shows in the world as New Zealand opened back up for domestic acts faster than most countries.
A greater emphasis on finding and promoting New Zealand and Australian acts had also left 2021 looking brighter, Kneebone said.
Live Nation had now promoted more than 20 headline tours by Kiwi artists since the pandemic started and also taken The Wiggles up and down the country for the children's group's most successful New Zealand tour with 50,000 tickets sold.
Then there was the move into longer-running shows, with the exhibition on Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh running at Auckland's Spark Arena as well as in Wellington and Christchurch between January and May.
"If you asked me two years ago, would 250,000 New Zealanders take their families to go watch art inside an arena, I'd say you were crazy, but that's exactly what's just happened," Kneebone said.
Hot-selling tickets for the Lion King further highlighted the appetite among Kiwis to watch events, he said.
New Zealand's Covid-free status and Live Nation's desire to bring in acts, allowed the global Lion King production to run its first show back anywhere in the world after the pandemic shut it down in March 2020.
Back then it had been touring in Hong Kong with China's Wuhan planned as its next stop.
Kneebone said the Lion King's Kiwi success now opened Spark Arena up to a future schedule that better combined longer-running shows, such as musicals, with one-off touring acts.
"You only have to look at how competitive it is to get dates for Friday and Saturday nights at the arena for 2022 and 2023 to know how much is coming," he said.