Hollywood Movie to Broadway Musical 2013

Big Fish, the movie (top), with Alison Lohman and Ewan McGregor; the Broadway musical (bottom) with Norbert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin

The director of “Amelie,”  Jean-Pierre Jeunet said he was “disgusted” by the plans to turn his film into a Broadway musical, selling his rights only because he wanted to give the money to a charity he supported.   “I hate Broadway. I think it is the very incarnation of tackiness,” he said in a radio interview (surely this sounded better in the original French.)

Hollywood feels differently.

The 2013-2014 Broadway theater season so far includes six shows – five of them musicals, one a play – that were movies. Here they are in the order of their planned openings on Broadway, with a summaries from the original films:

 Big Fish

(2003 film directed by Tim Burton)

Opening at Neil Simon Theater October 6, 2013.

A son tries to learn more about his dying father by reliving stories and myths he told about his life.


A Time To Kill

(1996 film directed by Joel Schumacher, based on a 1989 John Grisham legal thriller)

Opening  at John Golden Theater October 20, 2013. The only non-musical play in this season’s group of movie adaptations.

A young lawyer defends a black man accused of murdering two men who raped his 10-year-old daughter, sparking a rebirth of the KKK.


The Bridges of Madison County

(1995 film directed by Clint Eastwood, based on a 1992 novel by Robert James Waller)

Opening at Gerald Schoenfeld February 27, 2014

Photographer Robert Kincaid wanders into the life of housewife Francesca Johnson, for four days in the 1960s.



(a 1976 film directed by John G. Avildsen , written by and starring Sylvester Stallone)

Opening at Winter Garden March 13, 2014

A small-time boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight the heavy-weight champion in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.



(a 1992 Disney animated musical film directed by Ron Clements and John Musker

Opening at New Amsterdam March 20, 2014

Aladdin, a street urchin, accidentally meets Princess Jasmine, who is in the city undercover. They love each other, but she can only marry a prince.


Bullets Over Broadway

(a 1994 film directed and co-written by Woody Allen), Opening at St. James April 10, 2014

In 1920s New York, a struggling playwright is forced to cast a mobster’s talentless girlfriend in his latest drama in order to get it produced.


The Hollywood/Broadway relationship began with the beginning of film, but it was largely in one direction. The earliest Hollywood movie made into a Broadway musical  seems to be the 1942 film My Sister Eileen with Rosalind Russell, which became the 1953 Broadway musical ‘Wonderful Town”…with Rosalind Russell
Other examples:
The Apartment (1960) became Promises, Promises (1968, recently revived.)
All About Eve (1950) became Applause (1970), which was the first musical based on a movie to win the Tony for Best Musical.
42nd Street (1933) became the 1980 musical of the same name.
Woman of the Year (1942) became the 1981 musical of the same name.

But it is arguably only in the past 20 years, and especially in the past decade, that the dominant direction has been from Hollywood to Broadway. Many of the most popular shows currently on Broadway started as movies: Newsies, Once, Kinky Boots, and of course The Lion King.

In the past, Hollywood studios simply sold their rights to a film to a Broadway producer, who would do the heavy lifting. Now the studios themselves are getting into the act. Every major Hollywood studio is planning to make a Broadway show – mostly musicals, an occasional play – out of their movies. A sampling of the plans:

Fox: Mrs. Doubtfire, The Devil Wears Prada

Sony: Tootsie

Universal: Animal House, Back to the Future, The Sting

Warner Brothers: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (currently in London), Magic Mike

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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