Broadway musical 'Newsies' turns quick profit for Disney

In bygone days "extra, extra" is what newspaper hawkers used to shout to sell copies.

Now it's what the Walt Disney Co. is adding to its bottom line, with word that "Newsies, the Musical," about turn-of-the-20th century paperboys who go on strike, has recouped its initial $5-million investment on Broadway and is heading into the black.


Disney Theatrical Productions announced Thursday that the show, which began previews in mid-March, has recouped its costs more quickly than any of its four previous Broadway hits -- "Beauty and the Beast," which ran from 1994 to 2007, "The Lion King," still running after opening in 1997, "Aida," which ran from 2000 to 2004, and "Mary Poppins," running since 2006.

"Tarzan" and "The Little Mermaid" were the two that didn't pan out for Disney as Broadway investments.

According to the Associated Press, only 30% of Broadway shows turn a profit, so Disney's batting average is more than double the norm. Many other theater producers have been emulating Disney's formula of turning movies into stage musicals. It used to be the other way around.

In the case of "Newsies," the 1992 film version was a flop, but the stage production has caught on with songs by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, who won this year's Tony Award for best musical score, and book by playwright ("Torch Song Trilogy") and actor Harvey Fierstein. The dancing has been another key attraction, winning the production's other Tony Award, for choreographer Christopher Gattelli.

Another group of Broadway babies wearing smiles this week were the folks associated with the current revival of Kander and Ebb's "Chicago," which opened in 1996 and notched its 6,681st performance on Thursday, passing "Les Miserables" as the third-longest-running show in Broadway history.

"Cats" (7,485 performances) will be in reach if the show can last another two years; "The Phantom of the Opera" has a nice first-place cushion, with 10,356 performances.