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Murmurs of a ‘Mormon’ movie

Dauman, creatives drop film hints but no timeline

When Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman left the door open Thursday for a movie based on Broadway tuner “The Book of Mormon,” he was echoing talk already stirred by creatives Trey Parker and Matt Stone during the launch this fall of the musical’s two regional incarnations. It all points to the fact that a movie version of “Book of Mormon” is a near certainty.

Speaking at a Gotham conference for investors, the CEO of Viacom — the conglom whose net Comedy Central airs Parker and Stone’s “South Park,” and which released feature “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” under the auspices of Paramount in 1999 — was asked point-blank about a movie version of “Mormon.”

“We love working with the two of them. In fact, we have a small investment in the play given our association,” he said. “‘South Park’ is a major property for us, so we always talk to them. We’ve done movies with them in the past, and we always look for opportunities to work with them.”

But a potential film version probably won’t come anytime soon.

A pic adaptation of “Mormon,” the kind of B.O.-busting juggernaut that hadn’t hit the Rialto since “Jersey Boys,” is a natural next step for the property. Parker has said he’d direct an eventual film version, and there’s even an IMDb page for the presumptive pic, listing Scott Rudin — who lead produces the stage tuner with “South Park” exec Anne Garefino — as producer. But there’s never been a discussion of a timeline.

There can be sound business reasons for holding off. Universal has put off a no-brainer movie version of 2003 Broadway sensation “Wicked” in part to allow the legit version’s sales to crest before expanding the title into other media.

In the last decade, too, it’s grown clear that a movie adaptation can help revive a flagging Broadway longrunner. Producers of “Chicago,” the 16-year-old production, have credited the success of the Oscar-winning 2003 film version for reversing a B.O. slowdown. The Rialto outpost of “Hairspray” got a pick-me-up from its own movie adaptation in 2007, and even Broadway’s “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Rent” benefitted from the national marketing campaigns for film versions that flopped.

But in the case of “Mormon,” the real obstacle holding up a film version may be the creatives’ packed sked. One national tour of “Mormon” launched in Denver earlier this year and a second started perfs in Chicago earlier this week. Then there’s London, where the show begins West End perfs in February. All that’s in addition to Parker and Stone’s day jobs on “South Park.”

Parker and Stone have teamed with Paramount on two movies, the first of which was “Bigger, Longer and Uncut” — a project that frayed tempers on both sides before the animated pic, which cost about $20 million to make, went on to gross $83 million worldwide. The duo worked with Par again on 2004 outing “Team America: World Police.”

In any event, it can take years for a Broadway smash to make it to the movies — just look at “Les Miserables.” The buzzy awards contender hits the bigscreen in wide release later this year, 27 years after the original stage musical opened in London.

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