Music for Screens: Winter 2012

With no fewer than five studio-backed musicals scheduled to unspool this year, the genre will be impossible to ignore at the multiplex.

But will Hollywood continue to carry a tune beyond 2012? A look at development slates around town indicates that execs remain bullish on the expensive, time-consuming but often rewarding genre.

As the studios roll out “Rock of Ages,” “Les Miserables” and a “Sparkle” remake over the coming months, a number of promising tuners wait in the wings. From a Clint Eastwood-helmed “A Star Is Born” at Warner Bros. to a Will Smith-produced “Annie” at Sony and a long-awaited “Wicked” adaptation at Universal, the executive suites are alive with the sound of music.

Eastwood’s take on “A Star Is Born,” Hollywood’s fourth go at the material, seemed best positioned to garner a greenlight first, until star Beyonce announced her pregnancy in August, sending the summer shoot into question. Still, one of Eastwood’s frequent collaborators says they remain on standby and are awaiting word of whether the doomed showbiz love story will be Eastwood’s next project.

Also on the front burner is New Line’s “Damn Yankees,” with “Joyful Noise” helmer Todd Graff on board to direct and Jim Carrey and Jake Gyllenhaal attached to star.

“It looks promising,” says Graff of the project, which is being produced by the “Hairspray” team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “If (‘Joyful Noise’) does well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see ‘Damn Yankees’ come together very fast.”

Meanwhile, Oscar-winning producer Graham King has high hopes for a bigscreen adaptation of Broadway hit “Jersey Boys,” which chronicles the rise of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons.

“(Their) story is an incredible one, and it is what drew me to the project,” explains King of what would be his first foray into the genre. “I think this musical will make a great adaptation to the big screen because the main characters are very real and complex.”

Likewise, McG hopes to bring Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening” to theatrical feature fruition, calling the story about youth rebellion and sexual awakening “the greatest passion of my life.”

“‘Spring Awakening’ represents the opportunity to incorporate incredible music with the timeless themes of youth against establishment and doomed lovers,” he says. “I have seen (the play) in New York, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo — the result is always the same, rapture from the audience.”

And though Sony has put the brakes on Eliza Doolittle and a “My Fair Lady” remake, the studio is keen on a Willow Smith-toplined “Annie,” with “Hard Knock Life” rapper Jay-Z also producing.

Universal, which boasts the highest-grossing musical of all time thanks to “Mamma Mia!,” enjoys a deep bench of attractive musicals in development, including global stage sensation “Wicked” and “American Idiot,” with “Mamma Mia!” producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman on board. The studio even envisioning its Diablo Cody-penned “Sweet Valley High” adaptation as a musical.

But whether 2012’s bounty of musicals is a fluke or the new status quo remains to be seen. Graff, for one, doesn’t put much stock in the current flood of tuners.

“I think it’s the way development slates work out,” says Graff, who only works in the musical genre and admits he is unemployed as often as he is employed. “If Adam Shankman has a window, there’s probably going to be a musical that year. Otherwise, who knows?”

RETURN TO MUSIC FOR SCREENS: WINTER 2012

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