Newsies Extends — And Not A Soul Surprised
Three weeks ago I blogged about Disney Theatrical’s production of Newsies and the company’s peculiar choice to announce the show as a low-budget, three month limited run. Like others in the industry, I immediately called this announcement into question as being a clear example of when strategy was too evident in their execution. For Newsies, announcing the show this way served as a ploy to boost advance presale tickets the moment the notice hit the wires — it is getting clearer by the hour Disney never had any intention for a limited engagement. While the approach is a common one, it doesn’t work with an angel the size of Disney Theatrical — this isn’t a one-off producer with an Obie nom or two.
Newsies began previews three days ago at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre. At this point, reviews of the production can only be based off public patrons (critics won’t come until the opening on 3/29), the show has mixed-t0-positive word-of-mouth and on pace to break box office records set in the Nederlander by RENT four years ago. This morning, Disney Theatrical announced the show’s first extension, 10 weeks taking the show from a middle of June closing date to one toward the end of August.
The biggest benefit of marketing Newsies as a limited run engagement straight out of the gate was the simple fact that in its initial announcement, a closing notice was also published — a finite end date (ish) was made clear. Eliminating the “I’ll see it eventually…” mentality, audiences had to rush and act sooner-rather-than-later to grab up tickets. Weeks of performances were already sold out before the first Broadway performance, limiting, if not removing, the initial period of financial red. By having these ticket sales straight out of the gate, Disney proclaimed Newsies a “hit” immediately following the announcement extended the production “due to overwhelming demand.”
Disney Theatricals (and it’s related enterprises) are valued conservatively at over $41 billion. With a company whose weekly debits and credits rival net worths of Fortune 500 companies, why would Disney, dedicated to bringing dreams and fantasies to life, cap themselves at a meager $5 million? Even if Newsies were to take a hit over the course of its run, the brand equity and image advancement for the company would more than outweigh the small relative financial loss. Regardless of what ultimately happens down the line, Disney executives already know clear as day that the money from this show is going to come from the amateur licensing through MTI – why else do you think there have already been dozens of television show appearances featuring the same lip-synced track?
The question now is not if the show will extend again, but when? Will it be after formal reviews come out and Brantley has his way with it? When this new block of tickets sells out? Tony Nominations? Tony Awards? Will they keep stringing the public along with extensions or will producers transition it into a full open-ended run a la South Pacific? I’m guessing they’ll keep it around for just shy of two years and it will certainly be a strong performer for most of that time. They’ll run it down Winter 2013 and close January 2014 after announcing it will be eligible for high school productions immediately thereafter. The royalty money from that spring alone will bring as much back to the Disney as the entire Broadway run.