We’re surrounded by Studios.

I popped a rights request off to a major movie studio last week . . . for a semi-popular but mostly-forgotten flick that I think has tuner potential.

The response I got from the studio included the news that they were in the process of setting up a stage division for handling the development of their titles.

In other words, I doubt I’ll be getting my hands on that movie anytime soon.

But that’s not what inspired this blog.

What got me a-bloggin’ was something that I think is pretty significant.

With this studio . . . I think it’s now official . . . every single major motion picture studio has its own live theatrical division.

And boy oh boy is that a difference from a decade ago.  Back then, one executive at a studio said to me, “We don’t want a stage division.  One of the reasons we think we’ve been successful so far is because we haven’t had an official department.”

But they do now!  Warner Bros., MGM, Disney (duh), Fox, Universal, RKO, etc.  All of ’em.



Billy Elliot, Hairspray, The Producers  . . . Kinky Boots!  And many more.

What started as a hobby for studios . . . investing their petty cash and letting other folks do the dirty work of putting the shows up, and financing them, is not big fat business.  After all, Universal has gone on the record as saying that Wicked is one of its most profitable properties of all time. That’s right . . . not one of its most profitable Broadway shows . . . one of its most profitable properties, including movies!

What does this mean for Broadway?  And what does this mean for the independent Producer?

Will it be harder for independent producers to get titles?

Will Broadway become more like the movie model where Producers are hired and paid by studios to run their shows?

Will more movie stars come to Broadway because a movie company ties a film contract to a Broadway contract?

Too early to tell . . . but studio influence and money will have a major impact on our industry.  Look at what Disney did.

Now imagine five Disneys.


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  • This is scary….
    ….and exciting?

  • Troy Heard says:

    That just means it’s time to start scouring the indie bins for titles…

  • Heather says:

    I know that for the theater community itself and the tradition of theater genre itself that this would not be a popular thing. On the other hand as a teacher/director I am always looking for a way to make musical genre and the theater more accessible and known by my students. I’ve taught in places where the theater and all it’s wonders haven’t been easily accessible or understood until I opened their eyes and brought it to them. We need to keep finding ways to get the younger generation involved and interested so that we continue to have audiences and performers.

  • Laurent says:

    Ken, you touched on a new and interesting point here; Star A might be offered that movie he/she wants to do IF he/she will take a small part on a TV project AND we’ll throw in 12 weeks on Broadway in the revival of “XYZ.” And with their hands in more pots, perhaps more projects are brought to Broadway bringing more work for ALL.

  • Elisa Christina Clayton says:

    I have such mixed emotions about this because originality may suffer. The movie studios are powerful entities with the ability to probably tie up Broadway theatres more easily than independent producers. And constantly seeing movies remade into plays and musicals could become boring.

  • Bw says:

    As a film executive with a love of broadway, I am trying to jump start into this world with our films, many of which may be adaptable. We will always need partners, which will result in more work for everyone. Also, studios have money! Look at the upside. A $10 million investment for a studio with a “Wicked” type payoff. Why not give this a try.

    • Elisa Christina Clayton says:

      It sounds great for studios and lousy for consumers. Especially New Yorkers, who love the theatre. Wicked has occupied the theatre for ten years now and imagine the limited choice when the majority of Broadway theatres are occupied for a decade or more by one show. Also, that doesn’t spell more opportunity for playwrights.

      However, on the bright side, it may spur the growth and creation of new theatre districts in other major cities throughout the country.

  • Steven J. Conners says:

    Well, I’m not a genius, but in the old days didn’t Hollywood want to option Broadways shows? Seems like now is the time to become original again. Encourage authors, composers and new shows and let the movie boys play B’Way. Original is always better than revival, in fact there was a time when there weren’t many revivals, just new and exciting shows. Wadda I know? –sjc

  • This may be one of the most important pieces you’ve written, Ken. Lots if implications. Broadway may need more theaters. The film studios have the money to create new ones.

  • Doesn’t sound good that original work will ever make it on stage. Why would a studio take a chance on a new play, when it could just turn, say, Iron Man, into a Broadway musical? It’s the old built in audience factor coming into play. (By the way, I want it known I was the first one who guessed Iron Man would come to Broadway when it does!)

  • janis says:

    Is this an indication that the entertainment industry has completely exhausted the supply of original work?
    Is it an indication that both Broadway and Hollywood suffer fear of failure so greatly that they are compelled to abandon art for craft. Has the art of business overwhelmed the art of theater to the poing of favoring mass production over the unique one of a kind production of art?

  • Billy Elliot, Hairspray, The Producers, Wicked….

    If every major movie studio in Hollywood has a theatrical division now, why are they all doing only musicals? What would be exciting is if these deep pockets along the West Coast were to try other forms of theatre–not just drama or comedy, but the infinite number of styles and contents that performance artists continue to do with smaller financial resources (but often greater grit, deeper artistry, and more passion).

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