The stats on adapts.

Musicals aren’t a very original art form, everyone knows that. From Show Boat to Shrek, most are based on pre-existing material.

But it feels like it’s getting worse, right? Especially if you’ve read any of the TOS advertising, which is billing itself as one of the few totally original new musicals.

Well, let’s look at the last three decades and see what our authors are up to . . .

In the last 10 years, 64% of all musicals were adaptations.

In the 10 before that, 68% of all musicals were adaptations.

And, in the 10 before that, it was 60%.

Relatively consistent, right? And no sign of a trend in either direction.

But here’s a trend that you can’t deny.

In the decade starting 30 years ago, 6% of all musicals were based on movies.

In the decade starting 20 years ago, 11% of all musicals were based on movies.

And in the most recent decade, the percent of musicals adapted from movies was 19%.

Most of you probably could have guessed this trend, but can you guess why?

Is it because we’ve run out of classic novels to adapt? Is it because Rent tipped our audiences away from the epic British pop-era to crave more modern stories and scores? Is it because we can’t get our hands on the rights to contemporary novels because the movie companies use whatever petty cash they have to wrap up those rights for years?

Who knows, but the fact is that the movies are on the marquees. Is it the sign of the end of Broadway as we know it?

Nah. Adapted musicals are the majority, and it doesn’t matter where they come from, as long as they keep coming and as long as audiences keep coming to see them.

  • Scott says:

    Your last paragraph says it all. The reason behind the increase is because producers (and I suppose, the book writers) who want a “sure thing” look toward material familiar to the general public. From the age of Baby Boomers and forward, wouldn’t you want people in your theatre with a smile on their face as they see characters they either grew up with or were saturated with and have foremost in their memory?

  • Chris says:

    Well the reason is pretty obvious… adaptions are (generally) financial successes because they are familiar to outside audiences.
    A New York City theatre lover can take a chance on a new play or musical that isn’t based on a movie or a book, but a visiting family feels much more secure spending their money on a safe commodity.
    [TOS] (which I love, and will be seeing in two weeks) appeals to the NY theatre community first and foremost, so that “original musical” advertising is one of their primary marketing lines. I don’t think they anticipate a big nationwide audience or tour (though they certainly have a cult following around the country). Their audience is centered in the theatre community in New York, and they’re wisely appealing to that demo first.

  • Wild Bird says:

    I think it’s because when you adapt a movie you aren’t just getting a story, you are getting a brand that recognized on a national and sometimes global scale.
    Before a single adapted word hits the page there are millions of people who would “recognize” your musical.

  • B says:

    Aside from the above comment that pointed out that people feel more comfortable spending money on something they’re already familiar with, what about the fact that the sheer number of movies produced has to have increased since thirty years ago? I have no numbers to back me up and I may be wrong, but I would assume that more movies have been churned out per year recently than were in the 1970s.
    Personally, though, my complaint isn’t so much that there are so many musicals being created based on movies so much as *which* movies are becoming musicals…

  • If one were to look at adaptations from ANY media (play, book, comic strip, etc.), I think those numbers would increase dramatically, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. My theory is that an adaptation is an adaptation, no matter what the source. And no one cares as long as it’s good. No one cares that HAIRSPRAY was a movie adaptation because it is a great show. URBAN COWBOY, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, HIGH FIDELITY on the other hand . . .

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