“The Book of Mormon” musical, the Broadway megahit that is currently breaking box office records with road companies in Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle, is one step closer to the big screen.
The show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone of television’s “South Park” fame, have announced that they are setting up their own $300 million movie studio to produce film, TV and theatre projects, including the much-discussed film adaptation of “The Book of Mormon” musical.
“Having worked with several different studios over the years, we came to realize that our favorite people in the world are ourselves,” the pair told the New York Times in explaining their decision to “join a short line of Hollywood players who have formed their own studios as a way to gain control over the creative, production and distribution process.”
Stone told the Times he hoped the new company could be modeled after Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks or George Lucas’ Lucasfilm, but then he added: “In some ways it’s a stupid comparison because they are gargantuan. We want to be a smaller more humble version of that.”
“If DreamWorks is Walmart,” he continued, “we are over here knitting sweaters.”
Important Studios, as the new venture will be called, will “incorporate revenue from ‘South Park’ and ‘The Book of Mormon,’” Times writers Andrew Ross Sorkin and Amy Chozick reported, adding that the Tony Award-winning musical has grossed more than $200 million during the course of its Broadway run.
“That amount continues to grow because the New York production makes $1.6 million a week, according to the producers,” the Times reporters continued. “A touring version of the show makes about $1.6 million a week, and another production in Chicago grosses $1.5 million a week. And the show is about to go into production in London.”
That works out to about $19 million per month, reports Dorothy Pomerantz of Forbes, with “plenty of untapped potential” in the bawdy Broadway musical.
“Broadway shows can inspire very lucrative movies,” Pomerantz observes. “Just look at ‘Mama Mia.’ The 2008 film cost an estimated $52 million to make and brought in $610 million at the box office. ‘Rock of Ages’ didn’t do as well but ‘Les Miserables’ has been doing huge business in theaters. The film has grossed $234 million so far and recently won three Golden Globe awards.”
Aside from the financial considerations, there are still those who are trying to figure out the musical — both aesthetically and religiously. A Seattle Post Intelligencer reviewer, while acknowledging that she is “in the minority,” said “some of the humor is so puerile and redundant it just came across as shock value,” and that the show “left me feeling a bit like I had doughnuts for dinner.”
But another Seattle-area writer, Berit Anderson, notes the ads placed in the production playbill by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urging people to “read the book” from which the production draws its name, and suggests several reasons why she thinks the church seems to be undisturbed by all the “Book of Mormon” fuss.
“It makes missionaries lovable,” Anderson writes. “The elders (in ‘The Book of Mormon’) are a hard pair to dislike.”
Beyond that, she said, “it’s a recruitment tool.”
“As we strolled into the theater, we passed a group distributing fliers: ‘Enjoy the show!’ the fliers urged. ‘But please, don’t be educated about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by ‘South Park.’ ”
For her part, Anderson said she’s “feeling just a bit more open to the idea of missionaries at my door — especially if they’re anything like (the show's hero) Elder Cunningham.”
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