Disney’s “Newsies” Ends on a High Note

Continually Exceeding Expectations

Disney Musical Newsies Broadway ShowThe 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 overnewsies choreography $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.

“Newsies” on Broadway Announces Closing in August 2014

Newsies: An Unexpected Closing Decision

Disney Theatricals’ production of Newsies has been running at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre since March 15, 2015, with its official opening night on March 29, 2014.  For the 2012 Tony Awards, it was nominated for eight awards, winning two: Best Choreography for Christopher Gattelli, and Best Original Score for Alan Menken and Jack Feldman.  With a book by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Jeff Calhoun, this musical was the break-out role for its star Jeremy Jordan, who has gone on to star in the Broadway production of Bonnie & Clyde as well as the film version of The Last 5 Years and the television show SmashNewsies has been performing consistently well at the box office; with a modest budget of $5 million, it has gone on to gross over $100 million for Disney Theatricals.  In recent months, it has been holding up if not knocking it out of the park at the box office, which is why it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the show has just announced its closing date: August 24, 2014.

Disney Musical Newsies Broadway ShowNewsies is based on a 1992 film inspired by the true story of the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City.  That film was much less of a success than this musical has proven to be, as it only earned less than $3 million, with a budget of $15 million.  This film flop therefore ranks as one of Disney’s lowest-earning live action movies of all time.  This goes to show that different elements make for different degrees of success on the stage and on the screen.  With a compelling storyline, this show is renowned for its thrilling choreography, embracing the theatricality of the musical medium.  Furthermore, Harvey Fierstein is not only an industry favorite but a very talented musical book writer, and he did a wonderful job of adapting the story for the stage.

The Disney Theatricals Slate

Though Disney did not disclose its decision-making process, the organization likely felt that the show had been a great enough success to go out with a bang, rather than continue to have it run on sales that could only begin to taper off as time went on.  Whereas the show once regularly earned over a million dollars weekly, its numbers have been significantly lower in recent months.  Furthermore, Disney has several enormous Broadway hits already, the most notable being The Lion King which has been running for 16 years at the top of the gross charts, and the now-closed Beauty and the Beast which ran for 13 years.  Furthermore, the organization has just opened its new show Aladdin this season, and it will soon premiere its stage adaption in London of Shakespeare in Love (a co-production with Sonia Friedman Productions), as well as a revised stage adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in California’s La Jolla Playhouse this upcoming fall.  Still, not all of Disney’s stage shows have been successes, with notable flops including Tarzan and The Little Mermaid.

newsies choreography

A National Tour, and An Available Nederlander Theatre

Not only does Disney have other shows to focus on, but it never planned for Newsies to run for as long as it did.  The production had its first try-out run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, with the intention of focusing the property on licensing, regional, and amateur productions, similar to its High School Musical franchise.  However, when the reception proved to be a success, especially from notable New York theatre critics, the decision was made to transfer to the Nederlander Theatre, but again only for a limited engagement of three months.  Now that the show has played for well over two years, it has far exceeded its original expectations.  Plans are now underway for a national tour to begin in October 2014.  This will now open up the Nederlander Theater for musicals that are vying for a venue, as there are remarkably few available theatres on Broadway for new musicals, though there are many in development.