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Newsies Star Recalls Being Sent Bad Reviews By Disney After The Movie Bombed

Ele Keats as Sarah Jacobs in Newsies
(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Newsies, the live-action Disney movie that explored the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 in a musical setting and served as one of Christian Bale’s earliest opportunities to shine on the big screen (maybe it’s one of the Bale movies you haven’t seen). While the Broadway production of Newsies that premiered last decade was met with a lot of positive critical reception, the original movie didn’t fare nearly as well. In fact, Ele Keats, one of the Newsies movie’s other starring actors, remembers someone at Disney mailing her its bad reviews after it bombed.

Ele Keats appeared in Newsies as Sarah Jacobs, the love interest to Christian Bale’s Jack Kelly. Keats was just a few months shy of 19 years old when Newsies opened in theaters on April 10, 1992, yet she remembers someone over at the Mouse House feeling the need to inform her about all the critics who wrote “painfully mean” reviews about the movie. As the actress put it to Insider:

I got mailed this, like, phone book of horrible reviews, including some personal-attack type of reviews. I think that someone in the press department thought maybe I would enjoy reading them. I don't know why.

Ele Keats speculated this the reason this might have happened was because she was “working on another Disney movie,” presumably referring to 1993’s Alive, which was a co-production between Disney’s Touchstone Pictures label, Paramount Pictures and Kennedy Marshall Productions. However, Arvie Lowe, who played “Boots” Arbus in Newsies, told Insider he was also mailed negative reviews of the movie, so clearly Keats wasn’t being specifically targeted. Whatever the reason, it’s fair to say, at the very least, it was an insensitive move by the responsible party.

Along with earning negative reviews, Newsies also only made $2 million off a $15 million budget. In Ele Keats’ opinion though, the movie was a victim of “timing,” and felt it would have fared a lot better had it been released in the late ‘90s or early-mid 2000s. In her words:

It was just before its time. If it could have come out even eight years later, it would be wildly successful — 10 or 12 years later, it would've been a smash hit.

Even though Newsies’ theatrical run didn’t fare well, the movie went on to build a cult following on home video. That was enough to pave the way for the story to be adapted as a stage musical, which premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011 and hit Broadway the year after. Newsies’ original Broadway production later won two Tony Awards (Best Choreography and Best Original Score) and was nominated in six other categories.

Disney+ subscribers can stream both the Newsies movie and the recording of a 2016 performance of the stage musical that featured some alumni from the Broadway run (including Smash and Supergirl actor Jeremy Jordan). Those of you with your eyes gazed towards the future can look through the 2022 release schedule to learn what movies are coming up.

Adam Holmes
Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.