Continually Exceeding Expectations
The Disney Theatricals production of Newsies concluded its Broadway run this past Sunday, August 24, 2014. Unlike the majority of Broadway shows that choose to shutter after consistently earning dangerously low box office sales, Newsies had healthy, if declining, sales upon its decision to conclude the run. There are many reasons that Disney decided to close early, despite the continual profits. First of all, Newsies has already exceeded expectations beyond the producers’ wildest dreams. The musical is based off a 1992 film of the same name which was a major flop at the movie box office, but which managed to gain a cult following in the home video and online markets with musical theater fans. When Harvey Fierstein wrote the book for the musical adaptation, it was originally intended to play only regionally, at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. The intent was to earn profits primarily by licensing the show to amateur and regional houses. However, when many New York critics who made the trek over the river to see the show gave it stupendously positive reviews, Disney decided to bring it to Broadway. The show was originally intended only for a 3 month run at the Nederlander Theater, but encouraging box office sales and reviews persuaded the producers to extend for an open-ended run.
A Broadway Success Story
The show ran for two and a half years, totaling 1,004 performances on top of the 16 preview performances. In this time, it earned over $100 million at the box office, grossing the first $1 million in only two weeks. It filled 94% of its seats across the run, and saw an average gross of over $700,000 per week. With a modest budget of only about $5 million, the show was able to recoup its costs in only nine months. After beginning previews on March 15, 2012, the show opened on March 29, 2012, and it announced recoupment on December 20, 2012. In addition, it earned eight 2012 Tony Award nominations, winning two (those for Best Choreography for Christopher Gattelli and Best Original Score for Alan Menken and Jack Feldman). Though Disney is well-known for its hits such as the long-running The Lion King as well as its newly successful musical adaptation of Aladdin, it has also had significant flops in recent years including The Little Mermaid and Tarzan. Therefore, the success of Newsies comes with great appreciation for the mega-producer Disney, and it decided to close at a prudent point in the show’s trajectory.
Why Close Now?
Although profits have been relatively healthy in the last few months, they have shown a gradual decline. Furthermore, Thomas Schumacher (the president of Disney Theatricals) explained that based on the past performance of the company’s shows, he would have expected that Newsies would decline in the last few weeks of summer, and show a significant drop amidst the newly competitive fall season. To avoid this, they announced closing on June 22, 2014, which allowed the show to pick up steam at the end of its run. In addition, the show will begin its National Tour in October 2014, and the producers can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by re-appropriating the physical production (sets and costumes) to the touring production. Furthermore, the show will be long remembered in Broadway history as an unexpected hit, which went out on a high note. Even though its run was much shorter than many of Disney’s other shows, the run was longer than originally expected, and fans around the country will soon be able to see it in the touring production.