Tuners-to-pic trend now in reverse

Deauville to pay tribute to B'Way-H'wood connections

NEW YORK – Tomorrow’s Broadway musicals are coming right off yesterday’s movie marquees. Composers and lyricists are at work on tuner versions of “Sweet Smell of Success,” “Hairspray,” “The Night They Raided Minsky’s” and over a dozen other film-to-legit projects.

In September, the Deauville Festival of American Cinema pays tribute to a bygone era when the trend ran in reverse and Broadway tuners fed Hollywood’s production line. The movie versions of “Cabaret,” “My Fair Lady,” “West Side Story” and “The Music Man,” among many others, are to be featured in a festival tribute that will include appearances by Joel Grey, Leslie Caron and Mickey Rooney.

Will such long-gestating projects as “Dreamgirls,” “Chicago” and “Rent” ever join that illustrious company and make the transition from stage to screen? Or is the movie musical simply a beloved tyrannosaurus — dead but not forgotten?

“If I were to sit down and write one, I’m stuck,” says Elliot Goldenthal, a prolific composer of film scores, musicals and ballets. “How populist do I have to be? Can I be as personal as I was with ‘Juan Darien’ and would anyone buy it?”

Surprisingly, Goldenthal and director Julie Taymor’s Tony-nominated 1996 musical, “Juan Darien,” is a candidate for celluloid immortality.

“We have an offer to do it in Brazil,” says the composer. “It would be a ($5 million-$6 million) movie.” Which is the rub. “When it gets up to a budget of ($35 million-$50 million), you’ve got to write something popular.”

Goldenthal will attend the Deauville festival, where Taymor’s “Titus,” which he scored, makes its French debut.

In Goldenthal’s opinion, the kind of movie musical honored at Deauville this year began to wane at the box office when legit tuners ceased creating music for the youth market.

“That market is very divided now: salsa, country and western, hip-hop, rap,” he says. “‘Hair’ is the last example that had the rebellious quality kids like. Those early Elvis Presley movies had it. They were what parents didn’t want.”

As for the current movies-into-musicals vogue, Goldenthal says the trend could last longer than the original golden age of movie musicals. “It is the economic imperative, which is a powerful force. The pre-sale of ‘The Lion King’ is enormous.”

So why not “Batman: The Musical”? After all, Goldenthal scored “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin.” Warners, in fact, approached him on the subject of a caped wonder who sings.

“I have a problem with that,” the composer says of putting “Batman” in the deep freeze of a long-running musical. “Batman is disposable culture. It is mythic, but you throw it away and next week Batman is doing something else. The beauty is Batman’s continued exploits.”

Better vehicles for the stage-musical treatment, in Goldenthal’s opinion, are pics such as “Like Water for Chocolate” and “Full Monty.”

For a nanosecond, he and the “Titus” director toyed with turning “The Full Monty” into a musical — an effort that has since been mounted by other creatives. Goldenthal says it is a “perfect” idea: “You can get people to sing without it being embarrassing and have them dance without it looking phony.”

Twenty-five years ago, Bob Fosse solved that same problem in the movie version of “Cabaret” by placing all of the musical numbers in a Berlin club.

“Even earlier, with ‘West Side Story,’ Arthur Laurents didn’t want Jerome Robbins to shoot the guys dancing outdoors on the street. He didn’t think it was believable,” says Goldenthal. “Of course, I think that’s what a movie musical should do.”

But would anyone in the 21st century buy it?

More Film

  • Ryan Simpkins

    Ryan Simpkins Joins Fox-Disney's 'Fear Street' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Simpkins has joined Fox-Disney’s second installment of 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s “Fear Street” trilogy, based on the novels by R.L. Stine. Leigh Janiak is helming all three films. Previously announced cast includes Gillian Jacobs, Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Fred Hechinger, Julia [...]

  • MPAA Logo

    Motion Picture Association of America Hires Emily Lenzner as Communications Chief

    The Motion Picture Association of America has appointed veteran public relations executive Emily Lenzner as its executive VP of global communications and public affairs. She will report to Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin and oversee the trade group’s communications team in the U.S. and internationally. Lenzner will start Aug. 1 and be based at the MPAA’s [...]

  • See Taylor Swift Unveil Feline Moves

    See Taylor Swift Unveil Feline Moves for First Time in 'Cats' Behind-the-Scenes Teaser

    Taylor Swift fans finally get to see some of the results of all those years spent studying her roommates Meredith and Olivia — and also, not incidentally, some time with a choreographer — in a new behind-the-scenes teaser for the movie “Cats.” The three-and-a-half-minute featurette has footage of Swift striking crouching feline moves as well [...]

  • CGR’s Immersive Premium Format Set for

    Immersive Theater Technology Set for US Debut in Los Angeles

    French multiplex company CGR Cinemas has selected the Regal LA Live as the first U.S. theater to use its Immersive Cinema Experience technology. The ICE format will be unveiled in the fall at the downtown location in a partnership between CGR and AEG. The companies made the announcement Wednesday but did not reveal which title [...]

  • Amazon Developing Original Series Based on

    Amazon Studios Buys 'Selah and the Spades,' Will Develop Original Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Amazon Studios has acquired worldwide rights to “Selah and the Spades,” a gripping look at a prep school drug dealer, Variety has learned. The film marks the feature debut of writer and director Tayarisha Poe and had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival where it was a favorite with critics. Amazon has [...]

  • The Ultimate Guide to 2019 Comic-Con

    The Ultimate Guide to 2019 Comic-Con Parties and Activations

    Hollywood is heading down the California coast to San Diego because It’s time for 2019 Comic-Con International. The annual cosplay celebration officially kicks off tomorrow, July 18, with a preview happening tonight. Here, Variety gives you a guide to this year’s parties and activations. Make sure to check back for updates. Wednesday, July 17Amazon Prime [...]

  • The Wound African Cinema Berlin Film

    Finance Forum Brings African WIP Into Focus at Durban FilmMart

    The 10th edition of the Durban FilmMart, which unspools parallel to the 40th Durban Intl. Film Festival, will feature 10 fiction and 10 documentary works-in-progress taking part in its annual Finance Forum. The leading co-production market on the continent, the Forum brings together producers, distributors, sales agents, broadcasters, funding bodies, and other industry players from across the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content