(Photo by Disney+; BroadwayHD; ©PBS/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Theater shutdowns around the world have been one of the many disappointments of the pandemic, but the option to stream live theater in the comfort of our own homes has also meant no ringing cell phones or crinkly candy wrappers interrupting performances.
Some streaming services specialize in stage shows. BroadwayHD‘s offerings, for example, run the gamut from Tony-award-winning plays and musicals to concerts, ballets, Cirque du Soleil performances, and Royal Shakespeare Company productions. A subscription will cost you $8.99 per month or $99.99 per year.
Similarly, Marquee.tv offers collections of Royal Opera House, Teatro Real of Madrid, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, The Washington Ballet, The Bolshoi, and more. Memberships are $8.99 monthly and $89.99 annually.
You might also have seen some of the film adaptations (for better and worse) available of shows like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Chicago, Kinky Boots, Rent, Into The Woods, and, most recently — and most hilariously — Cats, which has a 19% Tomatometer score. Steven Spielberg is also remaking West Side Story for an upcoming release, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights opens this summer in theaters and on HBO Max.
While the theatrical stages slowly return (with limited capacity for the time being), here are suggestions for 20 theatrical performances you can catch from a prime front-row seat on your couch — though you’ll have to police candy wrapper and cell phone disruptions yourself.
What it is: The winner of 11 (11!) Tony Awards, Hamilton uses hip hop, R&B, pop, soul, dance, and fine performances from the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Christopher Jackson, Leslie Odom, Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, Daveed Diggs, and Phillipa Soo to tell the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
Why you’ll love it: Because you couldn’t get seats during its Broadway run with the original cast. Because even if you did, it’s still a mind-blowing experience to see it from the comfort of your own home, especially now that you know the songs and dances by heart and can sing along, as loudly as you’d like.
Where to watch it: Disney+
What it is: The Pulitzer and Tony-nominated story in which writer Heidi Schreck plays adult and teen versions of herself to talk about issues like domestic and sexual abuse, immigration, and women’s rights.
Why you’ll love it: Schreck’s frenetic energy brings much-needed laughs to the often traumatic personal stories she shares to illustrate the many ways the laws of our country betray the very people who need their protection the most. It’s also quite interactive, thanks to frequent audience reactions, as well as a final vote by the audience on whether or not the Constitution should be abolished.
Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video
What it is: Jonathan Larson’s Tony- and Pulitzer-winning rock musical about a group of struggling young artists in New York City’s East Village became a pop culture phenomenon, running for 12 years on Broadway, earning more than $280 million in ticket sales, with cast members including Anthony Rapp, Idina Menzel, Jesse L. Martin, and Taye Diggs.
Why you’ll love it: The final performance of Rent on Broadway, this presentation also features appearances by the original cast, who join with the final cast to reprise “Seasons Of Love,” the Rent song you probably know the words to even if you’ve never seen any production.
Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video
Into The Woods
What it is: The Stephen Sondheim musical about a childless couple that is cursed by a witch and interact with fairy tale characters from “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rapunzel,” “Cinderella,” and “Jack and the Beanstalk” as they pursue their dream of having a family.
Why you’ll love it: This 2019 Olivier Award winner for best musical revival was filmed live at the Regent Park Open Air theater (fittingly in a wooded area) in London, and features Hannah Waddingham, who many TV fans will recognize from the Apple TV+ comedy Ted Lasso, as the Witch.
Where to watch it: BroadwayHD
What it is: A 1992 Tony-winning musical, written by William Finn and James Lapine, about Marvin, a gay man who leaves wife Trina to be with his lover, Whizzer, and the relationships they have to maneuver later while planning son Jason’s Bar Mitzvah.
Why you’ll love it: This 2016 revival earned five Tony nominations thanks to its spectacular cast, including Christian Borle as Marvin, Andrew Rannells as Whizzer, and Stephanie J. Block as Trina, who hit every emotional note as they explore modern families, love, illness, religion, and loss (hint: have the box of Kleenex standing by).
Where to watch it: BroadwayHD
What it is: Shakespeare’s 1595 play about King Richard of England’s last two years of life, during which he alienated his people, including his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, who overthrew Richard and took the crown, as King Henry IV.
Why you’ll love it: This 2013 Royal Shakespeare Company production stars former Doctor Who star David Tennant as the titular king, and, just as he had in an earlier RSC production of Hamlet, the always fantastic Tenant makes the production both definitive and accessible with his bold portrayal of the vain, doomed Richard.
Where to watch it: Marquee.tv
What it is: Spike Lee directs Talking Heads singer David Byrne and 11 musicians in a filmed version of the 2019/2020 Broadway show, as they perform recent and classic hits from Byrne’s career, including “Once in a Lifetime,” “Burning Down the House,” and “Road to Nowhere.”
Why you’ll love it: The incredibly joyous, energetic performance would be welcome anytime, but there’s no denying how much it really hits the spot this year, and how much it will make you feel less isolated than most things that have filled our screens this year have.
Where to watch it: HBO Max
The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage!
What it is: The Tony-nominated (a dozen nominations, to be exact) 2017 musical based on the beloved Nickelodeon kids show (which has, of course, just as many adult devotees).
Why you’ll love it: Led by Tony-nominated performances by Ethan Slater and Gavin Lee, with bold and wonderful Tony-winning scenic design, and infectious songs written by the likes of John Legend, Cyndi Lauper, Sara Bareilles, They Might Be Giants, Steven Tyler, and David Bowie, the musical captures every bit of the whimsy and fun of the TV ‘toon.
Where to watch it: Vudu and other streaming services
What it is: Like the title says, it’s The Boss, on Broadway, during an almost year-long 2017/2018 musical residency featuring Bruce, solo, singing, playing guitar and piano, and sharing stories from his memoir Born to Run.
Why you’ll love it: The Tony- and Emmy-winning performance features a carefully crafted setlist (“My Hometown,” “Thunder Road,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” and “Born to Run” are included) and personal storytelling that combines for what Rolling Stone called “one of the most compelling and profound shows by a rock musician in recent memory.”
Where to watch it: Netflix
What it is: John Mulaney and Nick Kroll take to their turtleneck-sporting Upper East Side boomer friends and roommates George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon to say, “Oh, Hello!” to audiences on The Great White Way.
Why you’ll love it: Plot is not really important here, but pals Mulaney and Kroll take laughs, and tuna, seriously in this absurd, but undeniably weird and funny riff on the friendship — and, again, shared love of tuna — between these uniquely delusional New York seniors.
Where to watch it: Netflix
Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn
What it is: Irving Berlin’s 1942 movie turned into a 2017 Broadway musical, about a singer and dancer, Jim, who decides to leave showbiz behind for a more quiet life on a farm. But when he begins to miss his old life, he turns the farm into a musical inn … that’s only open on the holidays.
Why you’ll love it: High School Musical star Corbin Bleu plays Ted in this delightful song-and-dance adaptation, which, surprisingly, is the first time the film has been turned into a Broadway production. It’s a retro gem, though, especially the Tony-nominated choreography (including a number featuring jump ropes — really).
Where to watch it: BroadwayHD
The King and I
What it is: The tale of the 1860s-era Siam King (Ken Watanabe) and the British widow schoolteacher (Kelli O’Hara) who clash and bond as he comes to value her as the only person who dares to tell him the truth. The production, originated on Broadway in 2015, was filmed when the musical moved to the West End in 2018.
Why you’ll love it: As grand as a romantic theater musical can be, this production of the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein classic is sweeping and lovely, with Tony-winning performances by O’Hara and Ruthie Ann Miles as the King’s wife, a nod for Watanabe, and a Tony win for the entire production for Best Revival of a Musical.
Where to watch it: BroadwayHD
Driving Miss Daisy
What it is: American playwright Alfred Uhry’s story, based on his grandmother’s life, about a Southern Jewish woman and her decades-long friendship with her African-American chauffeur. Uhry won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play.
Why you’ll love it: A duo of acting legends bring Miss Daisy Werthan and the man she will eventually call her best friend, driver Hoke Coleburn, to life in this filmed version of a 2013 Australian tour performance of the play: Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones.
Where to watch it: BroadwayHD
What it is: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first musical – a revival, movie, and school performance gem – revolves around Oklahoma farm girl Laurie, who is being wooed by two love interests: cowboy Curly and evil farmhand Jud.
Why you’ll love it: This 1999 filming of London’s National Theater production of the musical, which won four Olivier Awards, is also an early career triumph for Hugh Jackman, who earned an Olivier nod for his performance as Curly. Jackman and Josefina Gabrielle as Laurie also perform the show’s famous “dream ballet” sequence – rewritten for this production – themselves.
Where to watch it: BroadwayHD
What it is: John Leguizamo’s 2017 play about the history of Latin Americans in U.S. history – a topic that included research revelations that surprised even the actor – sparked from his son’s school assignment to write about heroes and the discovery that Latinxs had gotten little coverage in school textbooks.
Why you’ll love it: There is no better, more frenetic, more heartfelt solo theater performer than Leguizamo, who earned a well-deserved Tony nod for this very personal and entertaining performance as he sets about to relay 3,000 years of Latin history, “between the Mayans and Pitbull.”
Where to watch it: Netflix
What it is: This 2008 musical is based on the hit movie series and author William Steig’s book about the big green ogre who lives at the swamp and the new friends – Donkey! – and new love – Princess Fiona! – he meets when he tangles with the evil Lord Farquaad.
Why you’ll love it: The always Tony-worthy Sutton Foster indeed earned a nomination for her performance as Fiona, as did Shrek and Farguaad portrayers Brian d’Arcy James and Christopher Sieber, while Tim Hatley got the Tony win for Best Costume Design, all elements which made this colorful, clever comedy musical a pure delight, a worthy adaptation of all the Shrek that came before it.
Where to watch it: Netflix (subscription); buy or rent on Vudu and other streaming services
What it is: Cyndi Lauper wrote the music and lyrics and Harvey Fierstein wrote the book for this beloved 2013 Broadway musical, about Charlie, who inherits a shoe factory and teams with cabaret performer and drag queen Lola to create a line of high-heeled boots that will save Charlie’s business and help him and Lola learn they’re a lot more alike than different.
Why you’ll love it: The show brought the fabulous Billy Porter, the Tony– and Grammy Award–winning actor who portrayed Lola, to our musical-drama-lovin’ lives. Kinky Boots won six of the 13 Tony nominations it earned, including a Best Original Score win for Lauper. Laurence Olivier Award–winning Matt Henry stars as Lola in the filmed performance now available on BroadwayHD. Henry was also nominated for the “Best Solo Performance” Grammy Award for the Kinky Boots West End Cast Recording.
Where to watch it: BroadwayHD
She Loves Me
What it is: Based on the 1937 play Perfumerie, which was also adapted as the movies The Shop Around the Corner and You’ve Got Mail, this 2016 revival revolves around Georg and Amalia, sparring co-workers unaware that the pen pals they’re falling in love with are actually each other.
Why you’ll love it: Zachary Levi as Georg, Laura Benanti as Amalia, and Jane Krakowski as their co-worker Ilona all received Tony nominations for their charming performances in this feel-good romantic comedy, which also earned a Tony nod as Best Revival of a Musical and a Tony win for Best Scenic Design of a Musical.
Where to watch it: BroadwayHD
Elaine Stritch at Liberty
What it is: Legendary actress and Broadway star Elaine Stritch’s 2002 one-woman show started Off-Broadway, before moving to Broadway and then to the West End in London, where this performance was filmed.
Why you’ll love it: If you remember her best from her late-career TV role as the ball-busting mother of 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), that’s the vibe you’ll get in this tour de force, as Stritch takes the audience through her life and career, with song, dance, delicious backstage anecdotes, and an outfit consisting of a white blouse and rather sheer black stockings; the lady is a vamp.
Where to watch it: BroadwayHD subscription; buy it at Amazon Prime Video
What it is: A 2013 Broadway revival of the Shakespeare standard, starring Orlando Bloom and four-time Tony-nominated Condola Rashad as the titular star-crossed lovers.
Why you’ll love it: The rest of the stellar cast includes 24 and The Walking Dead star Corey Hawkins, American Idol alum Justin Guarini, and Dexter and House of Cards scene-stealer Christian Camargo. And while you wistfully think about how having an all-star version like this to watch would have helped your enjoyment of studying the Bard’s tragedy back in high school, also consider this impressive fact: this version is the 36th time Romeo and Juliet was produced on Broadway.
Where to Watch It: BroadwayHD
The Arrrowverse has a lot of musical talent. Two of their title heroes, Supergirl and The Flash, came from Glee. Many others cast members were on Broadway, and some have released albums. So when The Flash was doing a musical episode, it just had to crossover with the stars of Supergirl, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow.
At the end of Supergirl‘s episode Monday night, “Star-Crossed,” The Music Meister (guest star Darren Criss) puts Kara (Melissa Benoist) into a coma. J’onn J’onzz (David Harewood) and Mon-El (Chris Wood) take Kara over to The Flash’s Earth for help in episode “Duet.” Music Meister gets Barry (Grant Gustin), too, and the rest of the episode will play out as a musical fantasy featuring the characters from all four shows, including Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and Dr. Stein (Victor Garber).
Here’s a breakdown of the musical cred of the stars of Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow, starting with Team Supergirl, with a clip highlighting each singer. (J’onn J’onzz and Mon-El have reportedly have non-singing roles in “Duets.”)
There were so many cast members in Glee, it was sometimes hard to give them all a song. Marley (Benoist) performed in a lot of group songs and shared a killer duet mashup of “Crazy/Drive Me Crazy.” She got to be Sandy in Grease until Rachel (Lea Michele) took over halfway through “You’re the One That I Want.” She even got to be Posh Spice with a zig-a-zig-ah in “Wannabe.” Her solo of “Wrecking Ball” really let Benoist belt it out and ride the ball. Hopefully, The Flash gives her a bravura solo like this one.
Smash allowed Jeremy Jordan to cross over from Broadway to television, employing his triple threat acting/singing/dancing skills. The fictional show on NBC’s Broadway drama couldn’t compete with Jordan’s real theater cred. Having appeared in the ensemble of Rock of Ages, Jordan then played the leads Bonnie and Clyde (Clyde) and Newsies (Jack Kelly, the Christian Bale role in the movie). The only downside of Supergirl is it kept Jordan from singing. Until now!
Criss was a theater kid and recording artist. With his University of Michigan friends, Criss co-founded StarKid Productions in which Criss played Harry Potter in a trilogy of musicals. On Glee, he introduced the show’s all boy a cappella group, The Warblers, which briefly recruited Kurt (Chris Colfer) in season 2. After Glee, Criss has earned raves for his title role in the revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway and on tour. Hedwig had a sex change operation to escape pre-WWII Germany with a G.I., but the operation was botched leaving Hedwig feeling like neither gender, and the G.I. left. The songs encompass anger, sorrow, and bittersweet joy. If you want to see any more, you’d have to buy a ticket.
Sebastian Smythe (Gustin) popped in and out of Glee so he didn’t get to do as many songs as the regulars. Plus, he was a villain! Under Smythe’s leadership, The Warblers covered some classic Billy Joel like “Uptown Girl” and Michael Jackson from “Bad” all the way back to The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” One Jackson song gave him a one-on-one with Santana (Naya Rivera) doing “Smooth Criminal” to a cello accompaniment.
John Barrowman’s stage credits are as impressive as his run on Doctor Who and its spinoff Torchwood. Anything Goes, Phantom of the Opera, Hair, Miss Saigon, Beauty and the Beast, Godspell, Putting It Together, and many nonmusical dramas too. He’s even released albums covering classic showtunes and standards. So many to choose from, but above is the song he calls his anthem. Here’s Barrowman performing it live at the Royal Albert Hall in concert.
Jesse L. Martin was part of the original company of Rent when it conquered Broadway in the ’90s. He even reprised his role for the movie. Since Rent he’s had a long TV career with a steady gig on Law & Order. When he returned to stage, it was for Shakespeare, not musicals. So The Flash will hopefully be the first chance to hear him sing a song like “I’ll Cover You” again.
Valdes studied musical theater and performed in High School Musical, The Wedding Singer, and Jersey Boys on stage. Cavanagh was in Grease, A Chorus Line, Cabaret, and more on Broadway. Cavanagh has even appeared in some videos on Valdes’s music YouTube channel for his jazz band The Los. You can find The Los’s tracks and EP on iTunes as well as Band Camp, Spotify, and other audio services. Valdes’ goes solo in his smoldering video for “Night Off!”
Victor Garber had a long musical history before he ever appeared on camera. He was in the Canadian folk band The Sugar Shoppe and on stage in Godspell, Sweeney Todd, and Tony-nominated musical roles in Little Me and Damn Yankees. Fortunately, many of Garber’s ’90s performances are preserved on YouTube and televised awards shows. One could fall down a rabbit hole watching old Garber performances, so here’s Garber singing George Michael’s “Freedom” on the short-lived Eli Stone.
Two new star-driven Hollywood comedies face off at the box office this weekend in an attempt to unseat Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix from the top spot. Adam Sandler headlines the gay marriage pic I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry while John Travolta goes one step further starring as a heavy-set mom in the musical Hairspray. For the first time in nearly a month, no new release gets an early midweek headstart.
Adam Sandler is back for his annual trip to blockbusterland in Chuck and Larry starring with Kevin James and Jessica Biel. The PG-13 film reunites Sandler with director Dennis Dugan (Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore)
and tells the story of two heterosexual firefighters who pretend to be married to each other to take advantage of the financial benefits. The former Saturday Night Live star only does one film per year and each comedy has a specific well-defined plot. That has led to a string of hits at the box office as fans so far have not had too much of him. Earlier this year, Eddie Murphy reached $34.2M with Norbit‘s opening while Will Ferrell bowed to $33M with Blades of Glory. Chuck should go a little higher.
The former wedding singer has scored $100M blockbusters in each of the last five years and aims to extend the streak to six with his latest summer offering. Last June, his comedy Click bowed to $40M on its way to $137.3M while 2005’s The Longest Yard debuted to $47.6M over three days before heading to a $158.1M final. Sandler is one of the most reliable box office draws in the business and his usual fan following, skewing a bit more male, should be back again this time. Reviews have been bad as usual but should not factor in much. Potter and Transformers will still provide some competition for young males and females may be swayed more to Hairspray. Universal’s marketing push has been on par with past films from the actor and Sandler has been hitting up all the standard talk shows for his yearly sales pitches. Tying the knot in 3,492 theaters, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry could open to about $37M.
Amanda Bynes, and newcomer Nicole Blonsky join forces for the lavish musical Hairspray, the 2007 movie version of the popular Broadway version of the 1988 cult film from John Waters. The new PG-rated pic has earned glowing praise from critics which will certainly help its cause in a summer full of action hits aimed at young males. Hairspray will skew more female and could appeal to multiple generations given the broad range of stars from teen queens to middle-aged sex symbols.
New Line does not have an easy sell here. However the studio was wise to program the release into the second half of summer knowing that audiences may be all actioned out by now and looking for something different. Musicals rarely hit the big screen during the summer although in 2001 Moulin Rouge opened wide to $13.7M and a $6,019 average leading to a respectable $57.4M gross. Hairspray hopes to become a hit like Chicago and Dreamgirls, rather than a dud like Rent or The Producers. Broadway musicals don’t always translate well onto the big screen but starpower often helps to make them click with moviegoers. Hairspray boasts a solid line-up of Hollywood stars and with strong reviews should
attract a good following at the box office. Dancing into more than 3,000 theaters, the Adam Shankman-directed film could collect about $19M this weekend.
A space team is sent on a mission to repair the dying sun in Fox Searchlight’s futuristic thriller Sunshine which launches in limited release in ten theaters on Friday. Michelle Yeoh, Chris Evans, and Cillian Murphy star in this latest film from director Danny Boyle which expands to more cities in the weeks ahead.
Warner Bros. will take on the two new comedies and try for a second weekend on top with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Had the film opened on a Friday and concentrated its whole audience into three days, the dropoff would easily have been more than 60%. However, the Wednesday launch last week softened the Friday-to-Sunday tally so a smaller decline should result. The biggest foe will actually be Potter himself as the seventh and final book in the wildly popular series will go on sale early Saturday prompting millions of fans to invest their time into reading rather than munching on popcorn in front of a big screen. A 55% drop would give Phoenix around $35M for the frame and a mammoth 12-day cume of $210M.
Transformers should also have a decent hold since no new action entries are hitting the multiplexes. The Paramount/DreamWorks release might fall by 45% to roughly $20M boosting the total to a towering $262M. Disney and Pixar also look to see a good hold for Ratatouille. The animated rodent comedy may slide by 35% to $12M for a sum of $165M to date.
LAST YEAR: For the third straight weekend, Johnny Depp‘s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest led the field and grossed $35.2M boosting the 17-day total to a staggering $321.9M. Sony’s animated film Monster House debuted in second place with $22.2M and was followed by fellow freshman Lady in the Water from Warner Bros. which disappointed with a $18M launch. Final domestic tallies reached $73.5M and $42.3M, respectively. Rounding out the top five were the comedies You, Me and Dupree with $12.8M and Little Man with $11M. Another pair of comedies debuted outside the top five. MGM’s Clerks II bowed to $10.1M on its way to $24.1M, while Fox’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend opened to only $8.6M leading to a $22.5M final.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
She might not be all that big of a movie star, but I bet most of you will still be pretty psyched to learn that comic Sarah Silverman will be hosting this year’s MTV Movie Awards. Plus the show will be live for the first time ever, so that should be pretty fun.
Best known for her TV work and brazenly amusing stand-up material, Ms. Silverman can also be seen in movies like "School of Rock," "School for Scoundrels," "The Way of the Gun," "Rent," "Evolution," and "Heartbreakers." Her concert flick, "Jesus is Magic," houses some of the lady’s best stand-up, in case you need an introduction.
"Ever since I was a little girl, before it even started in 1980 — MTV — I said, ‘Someday, I want there to be an all-music channel that gives out awards for movies. And I want to host that show," is what the intermittently controversial comedienne had to say. "I’m training for this the way what’s-her-face trained for T2."
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Per Variety, Julia Roberts is in negotiations to star in "Daniel Isn’t Talking," about a couple whose lives are turned upside down when their son is diagnosed with autism.
The pic, to be produced under the Fox 2000 label, is an adaptation of a novel by author Marti Leimbach, whose "Dying Young" was adapted into film in 1991 and also starred Roberts. "Rent" scribe Stephen Chbosky will write the script, and former Paramount president of production Karen Rosenfelt will produce.
From Variety: "Stephen Chbosky ("Rent") is adapting Leimbach’s London-set novel about a couple and their two children. When it’s revealed that the son is autistic, the family’s orderly life is shattered.
Autism is a subject of passion for Roberts, who recently optioned the film rights to Cammie McGovern’s book "Eye Contact," about a mother and her autistic son."
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s "Walk the Line" strutted into the top spot on both the DVD sales and rental charts the week ended March 5, easily beating a slate of high-profile competitors.
The film’s success — Fox reported 3 million copies were sold the first day alone — underscored the power of the "Oscar bounce," in which nominated films are released on DVD just before the Academy Awards in the hopes of a sales boost.
On VideoScan’s First Alert, the Oscar-lauded Walk the Line outsold second-ranked "Lady and the Tramp," from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, by a significant margin, while third-ranked "Pride & Prejudice," from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, sold a little more than a quarter as many copies as the Oscar-lauded Johnny Cash biopic its first week in stores.
The film also was a big hit in rental stores. "Walk the Line" generated an estimated $9.2 million in rental revenue its first week out, according to Home Media Retailing’s video rental chart. That’s nearly 50% more than second-ranked "Yours, Mine & Ours," a Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment comedy that came to video after a respectable $53.4 million theatrical run.
Two other newcomers to the First Alert top 20: Universal’s "The Ice Harvest," a crime spoof that grossed just $8.8 million in theaters, bowed at No. 6, and the complete fourth season of "Charmed," from Paramount, debuted at No. 12.
Oscar buzz helped lift Lionsgate’s "Crash" back up to No. 13 from No. 18 the previous week, and that was before the drama’s surprise best picture win.
Author: Thomas K. Arnold, Home Media Retailing
Filmmaker presentations and schmoozing aside, the studio-sponsored "Dreamgirls" event was much more than an early publicity push with free food and drinks; it prompted a moment of speculation about Broadway adaptations, popular casting, and the production itself. "Dreamgirls" is in its seventh week of production, and Monday’s live performance of "Steppin’ To the Bad Side" proved at least that Condon can put on a dazzling show with flashy stage lights. The intricate stage movements of stars Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, Eddie Murphy‘s stand-in, and about a dozen other professional dancers also show that weeks of training can make musical (and movie) magic. Then again, this was only one of many song-and-dance numbers in "Dreamgirls," and thus hardly any indication of how the end product will be received.
In terms of the cast, you almost have to ask, can "Dreamgirls" measure up to the award-winning "Chicago?" Condon’s largely credited with turning the highly successful stage musical into a watchable, laudable film script — but then again, "Chicago" had the benefit of two Oscar-caliber actresses (Catherine Zeta-Jones and a surprising Renee Zellweger), a leading man (Richard Gere), and a legendary source musical by Bob Fosse. "Dreamgirls" has Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, who can believably hoof it and has a burgeoning singing career; Eddie Murphy (in what his fans hope to be a comeback role) as the dynamic James Brown-type pop singer James "Thunder" Early; and a supporting cast that includes Danny Glover and Tony winner Hinton Battle.
The real test will be within the main trio, The Dreamettes. Sure, Beyonce’s cut her cinematic teeth on projects like the recent "The Pink Panther" and "Austin Powers in Goldmember" — but neither role was dramatic or, arguably, demanding. Yet as Deena, the pretty member of the group, Beyonce seems to have it locked down; after all, this is the woman who fronted Destiny’s Child, the Supremes of the last decade.
Also proven is Anika Noni Rose, who plays Dreamette Lorrell. Rose is an award-winning stage actress who’s got a Tony under her belt, which automatically qualifies her singing and acting abilities.
That leaves newcomer Jennifer Hudson, whose character Effie is the main, pivotal character of "Dreamgirls." As everyone knows, Hudson’s big voice got her to the finals of "American Idol" two years ago; casting rumors had her pitted against "Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino for the role of Effie White. Yet Hudson’s got no prior acting experience — although she does carry herself with maturity in the media — and that may be the biggest challenge "Dreamgirls" has to face. Can the unknown, unproven Hudson carry film musical as ambitious as this? We know she can sing, but the character of Effie has to do much more — serving as the emotional center of the story, Effie is the original lead singer of the Dreamettes, who is slowly pushed into the background (and eventually out of the group) by the group’s manager (Foxx) and replaced by the prettier Deena (Knowles) as the group gains celebrity by selling out.
Another question is the music. With songs written in the 1980s, but set in the 1960s, many of the songs have a Motown-tinged vibe but still retain that ’80s sound, as evidenced in the now-standard, early Whitney Houston-sounding "And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going." Original composer Henry Krieger is on hand, with new songs, no less, but Condon’s employed the producing team of The Underdogs to contemporize the soundtrack. Can Krieger’s soundtrack hold up after revisions, additions, and a work-over by the producers of Kelly Clarkson and Justin Timberlake?
Also, Condon’s made the smart decision to add dialogue to his film version, since the original stage musical is sung through entirely. Will this be enough of an adaptation to convince film audiences, where previous attempts at making a musical less "stagy" (like adding dialogue to "Rent") failed? Condon’s "Chicago" succeeded as a film musical in part because most musical numbers were Roxie Hart’s fantasies, thus explaining the phenomenon of spontaneous song and dance to a non-musical audience. It doesn’t appear to be so in "Dreamgirls," where as a "backstage" musical the story has the benefit of explaining away some musical scenes; still, some numbers (like the clip of "Steppin’ To the Bad Side" previewed at the "Dreamgirls" presentation) will take place in the "real world" of the film.
The studios have initiated a marketing campaign already that includes paying the licensing fees for community and high school theater groups to put on productions of "Dreamgirls" in the coming year with the hope that it will introduce the "Dreamgirls" story and music to new, younger audiences. Those same audiences and young, MTV-watching demographics are the targets of star power provided by casting Beyonce Knowles and Jamie Foxx, and those teenagers’ parents may be enticed by the appearances of older gen-stars Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover.
Likewise, Broadway fans have been clamoring for a film version of "Dreamgirls" for years, and they’ll no doubt arrive in droves to see this latest, high-profile musical; after all, die-hard show fans went to see the critical dud "Rent." Casting Anika Noni Rose and stage legend Hinton Battle can’t hurt, either, and adds some very important stage credibility to a cast of mostly film thesps.
The filmmakers also have the distinct advantage of attracting the "American Idol" audience — which, in its fifth season, shows no sign of ever going off the air — with fan favorite Jennifer Hudson. The power ballad number "And I Am Telling You I’m Not Leaving," with its showy flair and melodrama, is a signature song that the "Idol" audience will surely be suckers for. To hear it yourself, view the "Dreamgirls" teaser trailer, here, which is no more than title graphics and the power tune, yet has hooked excited fans already.
RT’s Jen and Matt were treated to a razzle-dazzle evening on Monday night for a press presentation of Bill Condon‘s upcoming Motown showbiz musical, "Dreamgirls." They braved torrential rains to arrive at a tent located just outside the famous Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles, where guests were greeted at the door by throngs of waiters offering trays of martinis and wine — but would freely flowing libations be enough to melt the hearts and tough opinions of the media?
"Dreamgirls" is Condon‘s latest project and his next attempt at the film musical following the Oscar coup of 2002, "Chicago," which Condon scripted. This time Condon directs as well as scripts, with a screenplay adapted from the original book of its Broadway run, with additional dialogue and four new songs from composer Henry Krieger. Like "Chicago," "Dreamgirls" is another backstage musical, this time set in the world of 1960s Motown, and follows the rise and fall of a girl group, The Dreamettes — with pop star Beyonce Knowles as Deena, Broadway actress Anika Noni Rose as Lorrell, and "American Idol" finalist Jennifer Hudson in her acting debut as Effie. Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover and Jamie Foxx add star power to the cast.
Despite a star-studded line-up and Oscar-winning talent at the helm, "Dreamgirls" is a musical — and in the wake of such Broadway-to-screen flops as last year’s "Rent" and "The Producers," Condon and Co. may need the help of marketing magic to avoid similar pitfalls.
Hence, the "Dreamgirls" press event. Monday night’s lavish presentation by DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures was a rarity among media events; not a conventional set visit by any means, it was more of an open house that offered a glimpse into the movie-in-the-making with star appearances, behind-the-scenes peeks, and a feeling of exclusivity. Throw in fabulous hors d’oeuvres and an open bar, and there was no way this publicity experiment could fail.
For the first hour (coincidentally, plenty of time for guests to get a good buzz going), the few hundred attendees were free to nosh, imbibe, and wander around various booths set up, each hosted by a key figure in the production of "Dreamgirls." Production designer John Myhre (up for an Oscar this Sunday for "Memoirs of a Geisha") held court in front of a giant background informing passers-by who exactly he was, and he sat in a director’s chair with his name on it, waiting for guests to approach and engage him in conversation. Also manning posts were costume designer Sharen Davis (Oscar-nominated last year for "Ray"), composer Henry Krieger (who wrote the original Broadway soundtrack), and choreographer-to-the-stars Fatima Robinson (whose credits include co-directing the music video for the Black Eyed Peas’ "My Humps" and choreographing videos for the late Aaliyah, but whom we will always remember for composing dance routines for the Backstreet Boys).
Bill Condon eventually got up on a small stage and gave a brief synopsis of the film — contrary to other people’s denials, he admits "Dreamgirls" is loosely based on the history of girl group The Supremes. He discussed how much he is enjoying working on the project and introduced the composer of the original Broadway musical, Henry Krieger, who has written four new songs just for the film. Krieger expressed his absolute joy of having the chance to work on the film and said this was a dream come true.
Condon then introduced choreographer Robinson; costume designer Davis; director of photography Tobias Schliessler; editor Virginia Katz; and lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. Finally Keith Robinson ("Fat Albert"), who plays the character of C.C., popped up on stage for a wave. It was a nice touch to have each of these people give a short greeting and express their enthusiasm about the movie.
At this point Condon presented a short clip from the film with Jamie Foxx and two other actors singing ‘Steppin’ to the Bad Side’. After a brief twenty seconds or so the clip finished, and Condon ushered attendees next door into the Orpheum Theater, where the audience would (surprise!) witness the filming of the rest of the song!
Inside the ornate Orpheum Theater a camera crew had been set up, music playback started, and stars Knowles, Hudson, and Rose filed out onstage in full costume — red sequined gowns and big ’60s coifs. They lip-synched to the track in character as the Dreamettes, backing James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy) while a dozen background dancers filled three tiers behind them. Though Murphy didn’t show up, his stand-in was actually quite charismatic and for the short four minute song we could almost imagine the spectacular, flashy "Steppin’ to the Bad Side" as a scene in the film.
At the end of the performance, Jamie Foxx came out on stage and briefly expressed his enjoyment working on the film and said that it was great to see a project that made Eddie Murphy enthusiastic. A moment later Foxx invited everyone back to the hospitality tent, indicating that the show was over, and the crowd was ushered out of the Orpheum mere minutes after they had entered.
Back at the tent, Beyonce and her entourage made their way through the tent greeting people, occasionally stopping for a quick interview with various reporters. A few minutes after she left, Hudson, Rose and Foxx came in and did the same.
The stars made their appearances and left, leaving the leftover crowd of media and industry folk to mill about on their own. We took our cue to exit, and spent time next door at the Broadway Bar to reflect over what we’d seen.
"Dreamgirls" promo poster, picked up at the presentation
Known for his enthusiasm for the movies if not for any artsy-pretentious leanings, CNN.com’s film critic Paul Clinton died Monday, January 30.
A fond eulogy from fellow CNN contributor Todd Leopold broke the news of Clinton’s death today; cause of death is reportedly natural causes, although Leopold notes Clinton’s history of smoking and recent ill health.
Clinton was known for his polarizing views on films; polarizing, in fact, not because of controversial comments or esoteric tastes, but because he was, perhaps, too nice. According to Leopold, he was unabashedly in for the thrill, the entertainment value, the "roller coaster rides and popcorn flicks" — but at the same time, aware of his own inclinations and position as a "barometer" for moviegoers to measure their own tastes against.
Of his reviews included in our Rotten Tomatoes database, Paul Clinton agreed with the Tomatometer 70 percent of the time, which leaves nearly 100 out of 328 reviews in which he went against the grain of popular opinion. As another Clinton retrospective article points out, this disregard for the consensus is an integral part of being a critic, and one thing that truly set him apart. Below is a sampling of Clinton’s proudly dissenting opinions.
— Casanova, 43%
— Rent, 49%
— Derailed, 21%
— North Country, 70%
— Flightplan, 37%
Another mark of Paul Clinton’s writing was his ability to concoct some highly entertaining reviews. Here’s a sampling of his critical witticisms, reserved for the worst that cinema had to offer.
— A Sound of Thunder, 7%
— House of D, 10%
— Hide and Seek, 14%
To read more highlights of Paul Clinton’s film reviews, check out his critic page, here.
The IMDb sums up the plot like so: "Based on a pitch by Richard Wenk, the mismatched buddy film follows a troubled NYPD officer who’s forced to take a happy, but down-on-his-luck witness 16 blocks from the police station to 100 Centre Street, although no one wants the duo to make it. The story is a redemptive tale for characters who are polar opposites. The cop, a dark guy and a heart attack waiting to happen, who is escorting this witness who is a 14-time loser with a sunny outlook."
Warner Bros.’ "16 Blocks" opens wide on March 3rd.
Proving that not even a big handful of new releases can not keep a good wizard down, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" continued its impressive box office ways, handily dominating the holiday box office and remaining #1 for a second consecutive weekend.
Seems like a whole bunch of people decided to take in Harry Potter’s fourth adventure once all the turkey was tasted and the stuffing was stuffed. The resoundingly popular "Goblet of Fire" conjured up a $55 million 3-day weekend, which puts its total tally in the immediate neighborhood of $201 million … in less than two weeks!
Second place went to the well-attended Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line," which added another $19.7 to its $54.7 million bankroll, thereby proving that, yes, grown-ups sometimes do go the movie without the tots in tow.
The most successful newcomer this past weekend was the family comedy "Yours, Mine and Ours," which made just about $17.5 from 3,200 theaters, while Disney’s "Chicken Little" continued its impressive hold in the henhouse: It added another $12.4 million to its $118 million nest egg.
Rounding out the top 5 was the long-awaited movie version of Jonathan Larsen’s "Rent," which sang for $10.7 million from 2,400 screens. (Throw Wednesday and Thursday into the equation and that’s about $18 million in "Rent" money.)
Other new arrivals fared as either "not bad" or "downright painful." New Line’s "Just Friends" pulled in $9.2 million from 2,500 theaters, which covers the "not bad." As for the "downright painful," we have Lion’s Gate’s "In the Mix," which made $4.5 million from 1,600 theaters, and Focus Features’ "The Ice Harvest," which made $3.8 million from 1,500.
The upcoming weekend gives the current flicks a fair shot to battle it out, since the only new wide release is the Charlize Theron sci-fi action flick "Aeon Flux," a flick that seems unlikely to unseat Master Potter from his Money Throne.
For a closer look at the holiday numbers, stop by and poke around at the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page.
What’s Thanksgiving without stuffing yourself silly? The studios haven’t disappointed us in that regard, as they pack the theaters this holiday weekend with offerings ranging from a movie adaptation of the Broadway musical "Rent" to the latest black comedy featuring Billy Bob Thornton. And yes, there are a couple of turkeys in the mix.
You know, given time, all popular Broadway plays and musicals will get their own movie adaptations. "Rent," the long-running "rock musical" based on Puccini’s opera "La Boheme," tells of a diverse group of bohemians living in New York’s East Village as they struggle to make a living and produce their art. However, what works on stage may not work on screen, at least not in this adaptation. While "Rent" is energetic and faithful to the stage play, critics say the raw emotions and style of the latter are missing.
If misery loves company, then those without the holiday spirit will find comfort in "The Ice Harvest." A black comedy about a mob lawyer and his co-conspirator, played by John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton, who try to swindle two million dollars from their employer, "The Ice Harvest" will offer a few chuckles for those with an ear for witty dialogue, but the mean-spiritedness of the movie, critics warn, may be a turnoff.
In the original 1968 film, Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda were able to make their family of 20 work. In the new "Yours, Mine, & Ours," Rene Russo and Dennis Quaid give it their best, but critics say that while genial, this remake is a bland and frantic slapstick comedy that falls flat more often than not.
The holidays are a time best spent with family and to reconnect with loved ones, and that’s exactly what Ryan Reynolds is trying to do in the comedy "Just Friends." Reynolds plays a record exec who has it all, except the girl he’s had a crush on since high school. As expected with a comedy milking a person’s weight problem for laughs, the humor here is pretty crude, but if you want to see a person humiliate himself in the name of love, "Just Friends" is worth some laughs, critics say.
Back in 2001, Emmanuelle Chriqui starred opposite Lance Bass of ‘NSync fame in a rom-com titled "On the Line." Let’s just say that movie disappeared from theaters faster than Bass’ singing career. Now Chriqui is back in another romantic comedy, this time with pop singer Usher in "In the Mix." Any parallels here? We’ll see when the reviews come in.
Turkeys from the previous Thanksgivings:
15% — Alexander (2004)
4% — Christmas With the Kranks (2004)
12% — Timeline (2003)
14% — The Haunted Mansion (2003)
14% — Adam Sandler’s 8 Crazy Nights (2002)
7% — Extreme Ops (2002)
It’s no big shock that the fourth entry in the "Harry Potter" series was, far and away, the number one draw at the weekend box office. But the flick turned out to have the fourth biggest box office weekend in the history of moviedom: Harry snagged over $101 million from nearly 3,900 North American screens … in only three days!
The rest of the top five consisted of hangers-on, including Disney’s "Chicken Little" ($14.7 million weekend; $99.1 million overall), the Weinsteins’ "Derailed" ($6.5m, $21.8m), and Sony’s "Zathura" ($5.1m, $20.2m).
But back to Mr. Potter for a second. Here’s how Variety breaks down some of the magically delicious numbers:
""Potter’s" perf shaved a point off the year’s overall B.O. deficit compared with 2004; it now stands at 6%.
"This is the biggest weekend in Warner Bros. history," noted WB distrib prexy Dan Fellman. "With three more (Potter pics) to go, we’re looking forward to leaving more marks in the record books."
"Potter" reached the stratosphere without setting any one-day records. First-day take of $39.4 million does tie it with "Spider-Man" for the biggest Friday ever, but that’s the seventh highest opening day in history.
In a promising sign for playability, "Goblet of Fire" declined only 10% to $35.5 million on Saturday.
The first three "Potter" pics bowed with, in order, $90.3 million, $88.4 million and $93.7 million, with the first two opening in November 2001 and 2002 and the third in June 2004.
"Goblet of Fire" made $2.8 million on 66 Imax screens over the weekend, giving it a per-play average of $42,951. That’s the highest ever in the giant-screen format, just beating the $2.7 million record set by "The Polar Express.""
As is usually the case, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving offers a whole bunch of new cinematic choices. The day after tomorrow sees the release of New Line’s rom-com "Just Friends," Sony’s long-awaited cinematic version of "Rent," Focus’ dark ensemble comedy "The Ice Harvest," the family farce "Yours, Mine and Ours," and a teen-centric crime comedy called "In the Mix."
For a closer look at Harry’s magical box office spell, take a visit to the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page. (And have a great holiday weekend!)