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To use her own words, 20th Century Fox film chairman-CEO Stacey Snider felt “gut punched” when The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman as circus impresario P.T. Barnum, limped to an $8.8 million opening during the Dec. 22-24 weekend after getting ravaged by many top critics.
Now, the pic is on its way to becoming one of the top-grossing musicals of all time in North America after making a stunning box-office recovery. Thanks to the movie’s success and its hit soundtrack, there are talks to adapt The Greatest Showman for Broadway, says Snider.
No other details are forthcoming about a possible stage version, including whether Jackman would be involved. However, the Australian actor — who stars opposite Michelle Williams, Zac Efron and Zendaya in the film — is no stranger to Broadway, having won a Tony Award in 2004 for The Boy From Oz. (He also has hosted the Tonys four times.)
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the original songs for the movie, won a Grammy on Sunday for their hit Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen, and are up for the best original song Oscar for Greatest Showman‘s “This Is Me” a year after winning an Academy Award for the La La Land song “City of Stars.”
The soundtrack for Greatest Showman, released by Atlantic Records two weeks before the film debuted in theaters, zoomed to the top of the chart in the U.S. and several other countries in early January, just as “This Is Me” secured Paul and Pasek a Golden Globe.
At the box office, Greatest Showman is headed for a $150 million domestic total, on par with La La Land and a multiple of 17. Titanic’s multiple was 21; a typical multiple for a year-end holiday release is five to six times its opening. Says Greatest Showman producer Peter Chernin: “The lesson is that certain audiences are underserved, particularly in a world where Disney is delivering all these monster tentpoles. The other lesson: There are certain things the critics, and by extension Rotten Tomatoes, are constitutionally out of touch with.”
Fox may have marketed the movie to both families and adults, but it was older moviegoers — and especially older females — who are to thank for Greatest Showman’s surprise comeback.
On the film’s first and second weekends, two-thirds of the audience was over the age of 25 despite the PG rating, while females repped nearly 65 percent of all ticket buyers, according to Fox, which produced Greatest Showman in tandem with Chernin Entertainment. The audience has since broadened, with younger girls in particular turning out.
“There are girl groups all over the world doing ‘This Is Me’ dance routines,” says Snider. “The song has become a symbol of independence.”
Globally, Greatest Showman, which cost a net $84 million to produce, has earned $259.5 million to date.
“It’s a great shot in the arm,” says Snider. “We originally hoped to top out at $110 million in North America. Then, based on the opening, it looked like we wouldn’t come close to that.”
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