Why Musicals Barely Exist Anymore

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Why Musicals Barely Exist Anymore

Why Musicals Barely Exist Anymore

Musicals had a rough go in 2021. Despite garnering amazing reviews, In The Heights and Westside Story bombed hard at the box office and didn’t even come close to meeting half of what The Greatest Showman made back in 2017. In fact, musicals have been bombing a lot as of late since that Hugh Jackman vehicle with Cats being the most notable flop of the bunch. Musicals have an interesting history when it comes to movies. 1927’s The Jazz Singer is the first movie musical for Americans and the genre in itself has no shortage of unforgettable movies such as Grease, Footloose, The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain, Saturday Night Fever, Moulin Rouge, Marry Poppins and The Sound of Music; however, in terms of being box office draws, it’s more so hit or miss when it comes to the fantastical sing and dancing numbers. In total, 31 musicals have made over $100 million worldwide, with only six of them breaking the $500 million barrier. For closer examination, Frozen, Tangled, Moana, Beauty and the Beast, and Coco aren’t considered pure musicals. There are definitely musical elements, but it’s not the defining genre for each film. That leaves 2008’s Mamma Mia! as the only pure musical that’s made over $500 million.

Now, the reason that musicals barely exist could all come down to the fact that they’re just not bankable in today’s modern society. We’re living in the age of reboots, remakes, sequels, and superheroes. Musical’s sort of fit that category as movies such as Cats are adapted from Broadway plays of the same name.  When you really get into the reasoning behind the failures of In The Heights or Westside Story, it’s obviously deeper than the simple people just weren’t interested. Why weren’t they interested? These movies were a modern representation of different cultures, but here’s a dirty little secret: audiences don’t particularly care about race when it comes to films or television. Granted, when you see an anime adapted into a bland American remake then loyal fans of the original lose their minds, but it ultimately comes down to whether the movies are intriguing enough to sell tickets. The reason films with a Black cast typically did well had nothing to do with race. The same thing with Crazy Rich Asians. It’s mainly the suits in Hollywood who have this narrow mindset that white guys were only box office draws. To be clear, diversity is great and it’s important that more actors or any filmmaker of color get opportunities in Tinseltown, but the In The Heights or Westside Story bombed because they never felt like movies.

No, this isn’t me saying that musicals aren’t cinema. My point is that this genre feels more adapt to Broadway than on the big screen. It was generally hard to identify a plot for In The Heights because there essentially isn’t one. Audiences want to understand the story and whether it’s something worth their time. Or if it’s a pure popcorn movie like Transformers, does the action excite me enough? Musicals often tend to feel like spectacles, but one that modern audience don’t care about seeing in theaters. Les Miserables and The Greatest Showman worked because they genuinely felt like movies. You understood the plot and the majesty of the lavish sets enticed audiences to check it out. The same thing goes with Mamma Mia!, La La Land, or Chicago. Musicals barely exist because executives understand that translating a successful Broadway play isn’t exactly easy, and that Broadway isn’t exactly a hot topic amongst audiences in the movie world. Cats was mainly a spectacle, nothing more. The plot remained a mystery, even after the two trailers were released. The random dancing and singing works in the world of Broadway theater, but drastic changes should’ve been made to make sure that Cats fit the movie formula. Just because something is successful in order medium doesn’t mean that it will be in the next. If anything, video game adaptations are a prime example of this. Does this mean that the genre is dead after suffering four big flops? No. A genre will never truly be dead. Westerns are no longer a hot commodity in the modern age, but you’ll always see movies like True Grit or 3:10 to Yuma pop up every now and then. There will be another successful musical, though it’s not easy to identify when. It just has to be something that appears to be a movie first, not a Broadway spectacle transferred over to the big screen.Westside Story

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