A movie of Memphis as marketing and more.

Randy Adams and Sue Frost, last year’s Producers of the Year, recently announced that Memphis, their Cinderella story of a musical that has already surprised the industry with its no-stars Best Musical win and its year-plus long run and counting, will be filmed in the theater this week, and then released as a feature film this Spring . . . while the Broadway production is still running.

When was the last time you heard of something like that happening?

Oh yeah. Never.

Obviously there has got to be hope that the movie sells well on its own.  But as even the NY Times points out, one of the goals of the movie musical is to expose the tuner to audiences around the country, educating them well before the national tour of Memphis gets to their market.

What do I think of this move?

Well, let’s put it this way. If Randy and Sue keep up this kind of stuff?  They’ll be wearing that Producer of the Year crown for another year.

A well-established Producer told me over lunch recently that he was dissuaded from filming his musical back in the early 80s for fear that a movie version would take a big bite out of the box office.

We know better now.  Even mediocre musical movies help keep their source material running.  I mean, does anyone remember when Phantom was doing $400k?

Memphis is different, of course, in that it’s a filmed version of the theatrical production.  But it’s also different because it has the ability to help the tour and the Broadway production.  A twofer, to use a theatrical term.

But what I’m most excited about is that its another step in the right direction of embracing technology, taping productions to help market shows, and theater in general.

A Broadway musical in movie theaters around the country?  It’ll help Memphis, for sure.

But it’ll help all of us, for damn sure.

For those of you readers outside of the city . . . you’d buy a ticket to see it, right?

  • SweetP says:

    As a Broadway fan who lives in Georgia, I LOVE when Broadways shows are filmed. I have seen RENT, SWEENEY TODD, INTO THE WOODS, and many others. (Some are in Netflix streaming.) Imagine if the stage performances of current greats could be kept for all time. Imagine if THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS (unlikely to be a national tour hit) were preserved so everyone could see it. I can only hope.

  • Dave Charest says:

    Exactly what needs to be done.
    I can only assume it’s legal red tape that has allowed something like this to take so long.
    Reminds me of that story about coffee flavored ice cream being introduced in China before the drink. Little easier to introduce a new drink to a nation of tea drinkers when they already have a sense of what’ll taste like.
    Hope this goes well.

  • Jesse North says:

    Great post, Ken! I am excited about this move, because I love the marriage of great cinematography and stage choreography. This was gorgeously exemplified with Spike Lee’s filming of PASSING STRANGE.
    However, you say a filmed version of MEMPHIS will definitely help the show’s box office, but I’m not so sure. I wish you would go into further detail as to why you think it will help. Here’s what I see: someone who buys a ticket to MEMPHIS the movie will enjoy it, be satisfied that they’ve seen it, and then will be relieved of the urge to see it live (for more money than a movie ticket).
    I would love to hear your argument to this scenario.

  • Tony says:

    This is a great move for MEMPHIS. Look at Legally Blonde, which pretty much did the same thing. The tour was a hit, because every teen around the country already knew what “Legally Blonde the Musical” was all about and wanted to see it live. I’m sure the broadcast also helped make the London production such a success. The next move should be getting this released on DVD and having a new revenue stream for both the Broadway production and the tour. Way to go MEMPHIS!

  • Rachel says:

    While I understand how this works, it has the opposite effect on me. After seeing “Legally Blonde: The Musical” on MTV, I had no desire to pay even the $25 rush price to see the show live. I’ve seen Memphis already, and I was planning a trip back to see it, but with the movie out, I’d rather spend $10 to check it out, and then probably not see the show again.
    I think for really good shows, it works. For slightly-mediocre shows that I don’t care to spend money on, I’d see the movie (for the sake of seeing it), and then forgo the show.

  • LizG says:

    Definitely a step in the right direction. I’m waiting for the day, though, when I can buy a ticket to view a live stream of a show in New York. Whoa. Broadway, sort of, from the comfort of your own home. That, would be sweet.

  • Oscar Jaffe says:

    It may be a very smart move, but here’s the thing: the most recent cases of shows benefitting from their movie’s release have been CHICAGO, MAMMA MIA, PHANTOM and to a lesser extent, RENT.
    But these were all big studio films, that greatly benefitted from the $25-$50 million spent on national marketing campaigns for those films (double that when you add in foreign). How much will be spent on MEMPHIS’ film marketing? My guess is, not that much.
    Also, those films were BASED on the shows, with big Hollywood stars, etc. (OK, not RENT & PHANTOM as much). In other words, they weren’t the actual show itself, as MEMPHIS will be.
    As someone else pointed out above, there was no way I was going to pay to see LEGALLY BLONDE once the very same show was broadcast on TV for free.
    It should be interesting. Tapings of shows have never really gotten any meaningful traction, commercially or otherwise, yet. Maybe MEMPHIS will change that.

  • Anna says:

    From Paris:
    1/ The release of the movie Mamma Mia last year (even though not the theatrical version) has generated tremendous publicity and brand awareness for the show currently playing at the Mogador theatre. The show, openened with 100 000 tickets in presales, a record on the Parisian market. It is sold out till end March and continues to sell well above competitors. French tour to follow, no doubt with the same success.
    2/ The re edition of “La cage aux folles” which played the whole last season, ended its run with the live broadcast of the show on the second biggest terrestrial network, France 2. Probably the best marketing support for the upcoming French tour.
    Both these examples have made me change my mind about the relevance and or risk of filming a theatrical show for its future business.

  • Joey says:

    To the those who have commented that the MTV broadcast of Legally Blonde turned them off from seeing the show, I would just like to chime in and note that, as someone who saw the show on Broadway before the broadcast and, at a later date, watched the broadcast, I agree with your sentiment but feel that it is slightly misplaced.
    When you have happening with Memphis is actually very different that what was – VERY unfortunately – done to Legally Blonde. For Legally Blonde, not only were there several minor alterations to the book to make a few jokes television-friendly, but it was filmed in that standard, choppy music video style that just did NOT reflect well on Jerry Mitchell’s staging and the MTV audience of shrieking tweens were all required to wear pink and instructed to scream like a rock concert during the performance. they also filmed directed audience reactions of screams, gasps and laughter after the performance to integrate during post. I don’t see how a record of the production filmed in that manner could flatter any show.
    BW specializes in filming theatrical productions, so one would think that it will play far better on film than Blonde.

  • Robert says:

    You have to remember who’s the target audience for these shows. This type of audience can’t get enough of the material and will probably see the production several times, with the film (and possible DVD) only fulling the stage show.
    I believe this is the case with MEMPHIS and LEGALLY BLONDE. Filming shows like GREY GARDENS would not generate the same desired reaction.

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