Like them or not, Broadway musicals based on movies have become a staple of the New York theater scene. Risk-averse investors see them as a safe bet in an industry marked by escalating costs. But theater critics often look askance at the artistic merit of such ventures.
Funding for screen-to-stage projects is getting a lift from a newly announced fund called Broadway & Vine. The fund is designed to help with the optioning of movie titles for adaptation as musicals, commissioning creative teams for script development and staging the first readings and presentations.
Broadway & Vine has the backing of Jed Bernstein, the former president of the League of American Theatres and Producers. He is also an experienced producer whose credits include the recent Broadway revivals of “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Oleanna.” The fund also includes the backing of Rich Battista, the former News Corp. executive, and movie producer Bob Israel.
As the fund’s first initiative, the partners have announced “The Flamingo Kid,” a stage adaptation of the 1984 movie starring Matt Dillon. They said that about 75% of the funding has already been raised.
The new fund will behave in the manner of a mutual fund, with investors putting in money that will be applied to a few projects, thus spreading out each individual’s risk. The backers said that additional fundraising will be undertaken for projects deemed worthy of development beyond the initial stages.
Musicals based on movie properties have a mixed track record on Broadway. Notable box-office hits include"The Lion King,""Legally Blonde” and “Billy Elliot.” Recent flops include “Leap of Faith” and “9 to 5.”
“Once,” a new Broadway musical based on the 2006 movie, received 11 Tony nominations this month, the most of any current Broadway production.