‘Sweeney’ gets Christmas premiere

Johnny Depp musical to open Dec. 21

Johnny Depp will be singing in time for Christmas — everywhere.

DreamWorks and Paramount have decided to go wide with director Tim Burton’s bigscreen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical “Sweeney Todd” on Dec. 21, versus a platform release.

Original plan was to give the film a limited bow on the 21st and then go wide on Jan. 11, the thought being that “Sweeney Todd” is less commercial and less accessible than most musicals because of its darker storyline. Along those lines, a platform opening would provide a chance to build buzz.

However, when DreamWorks execs began seeing clips from “Sweeney,” they realized it had far broader appeal, particularly with Depp starring as the revenge-seeking barber of Fleet Street who uses his blade in gruesome ways to seek justice for the deaths of his wife and child.

The hope is that “Sweeney” will be the sort of signature role for Depp that Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise was.

DreamWorks and Warner Bros. are partners on “Sweeney,” with DreamWorks/Paramount handling domestic. Warners will release the musical overseas. The studios believe “Sweeney” will work as a holiday pic.

Also opening wide on Dec. 21 are Disney’s sequel “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”; Warner Bros.’ dramedy “P.S., I Love You,” starring Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank; and Sony laffer “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” penned by Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan, who directed. Limited releases include “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

“Sweeney” producer Dick Zanuck and Burton already had been pushing for a wide bow, expressing concerns that a platform release could give the impression it was an arthouse title.

At the same time, DreamWorks and Paramount aren’t likely to go out with “Sweeney,” which is expected to receive an R rating, on more than 1,500 screens. At least that’s the thinking at this point.

(Anne Thompson contributed to this report.)

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