Poor Movie Reviews for Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys” Damage Dodgers’ Gravy Train

The Dodgers’ Hopes for Jersey Boys Are Dashed

Jersey Boys Broadway MusicalDodger Theatricals, the producing team behind Broadway’s Jersey Boys, hasn’t had any new tricks in a while. Their most recent Broadway production is Matilda, which has been running since April 2013. Though that show has been performing quite well at the box office, the Dodgers are only second in command there, hanging onto the coattails of the Royal Shakespeare Company who originally produced the musical in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ biggest hit in the last decade is the jukebox musical Jersey Boys, based on the life and incorporating the music of The Four Seasons. Jersey Boys has been running since November 2005 at the August Wilson Theatre, often to stupendous feats of success. Not only did the show win the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical (amongst its 4 wins and 8 nominations), but it has had excellent box office success over the years. It broke the August Wilson Theatre’s box office record for highest weekly gross for the 30th time in January 2010, and it is presently the 14th longest running show on Broadway.

Jersey Boys filmThe “Jersey Boys” Movie

In light of this success, the decision was made to adapt Jersey Boys into a film, following in the tradition of many musical to movie adaptations of recent years including Les Misérables, Chicago, Hairspray, and Rent. Unlike all of those adaptations, however, the biggest name involved with Jersey Boys is the director, Clint Eastwood. Eastwood opted to choose actors from the stage musical casts rather than filling it with big Hollywood stars. The theory was that the name of the property itself – Jersey Boys – would be enough to attract large audiences to the movie theater. However, the movie received mixed reviews, and the box office response has been fairly modest. With a budget of $40 million, the film has so far posted a domestic gross of $46,377,524 as of August 7, 2014. Though this is less than 2 months past its release date of June 20, 2014, expectations were that the box office response would be greater.

Film Reception Not Improving Broadway Grosses As Hoped

Though the Dodgers are not producers on the film, it is certain that their licensing agreement allowed for a cut of the profits of the movie. More importantly, they must have been hoping that a successful movie run would indirectly boost profits for the still running Broadway production, as the brand power of the show would increase. However, Jersey Boys on Broadway is nowhere near the financial heights that it once had reached. When it broke the theatre’s box office record, for example, it had grossed $1,440,456 in a week. Though this summer has been more successful than the spring and winter that preceded it, the box offices grosses since June have still only been hovering around $800,000 to $900,000, which is around 70% to 80% of the box office gross potential. Therefore, to the disappointment of the floundering Dodgers, the movie does not seem to be re-launching Jersey Boys as a top grossing hit.

Have The Dodgers Run Out Of Good Ideas?

Matilda Broadway Musical Roald DahlMoreover, Micheal David’s Dodgers seem to be losing steam on their own development, as they haven’t announced a new show in a while. Before Matilda, their most recent show was a revue, An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, and before that it was the notorious flop Elling which only ran for a total of nine regular performances in November 2010. Resting on the success of the RSC’s Matilda, the Dodgers now seem to have run out of good ideas. Unfortunately, it does not look like the Jersey Boys movie was the golden ticket that had been hoping for and David and his renegade team will be looking for a way out, creatively speaking, pretty soon.

Dodger Theatricals Counts On ‘Jersey Boys’ Movie To Counter Its Fading Glory On Broadway

Jersey Boys, the jukebox musical recounting the rise and fall of the 1960s rock-n-roll group The Four Seasons, has been playing at Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre since 2005.  Produced by Dodger Theatricals, the musical has had quite an extraordinary run thus far.  Since earning 8 Tony Award nominations in 2006 – and winning 4, including Best Musical – Jersey Boys broke the August Wilson Theatre’s box office record for the 30th time in January 2010 (with a weekly gross of $1,440,456), and it presently holds the record for the 14th longest running show ever on Broadway.  Furthermore, the show has had two national tours and productions all over the world, from London to Singapore to South Africa.  However, though a frequent member of the millionaire’s club over the course of its run, Jersey Boys on Broadway has been struggling to compete with its old numbers in recent years.

Jersey Boys on Broadway - Marquee at August Wilson TheatreJersey Boys on Broadway - Marquee at August Wilson Theatre

Nevertheless, the producers have decided to capitalize on the musical’s global success by giving their blessing to a film adaptation.  The musical film will be released theatrically on June 20, 2014 by Warner Bros. Pictures.  It is directed by Clint Eastwood, and the screenplay is written by Tony Award winning playwright John Logan (Red) based on the play script by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, including songs by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe.  The film is produced by Graham King (Argo) and Robert Lorenz (Million Dollar Baby), and executive produced by Frankie Valli.  The starring role of Frankie Valli is played by John Lloyd Young, who originated the role on Broadway and won a Tony Award for his performance.

The decision to make a film of a successful Broadway show follows the precedent led by, among others, Mamma Mia!, which released its film version in 2008 after running on Broadway since 2001.  Though the film release didn’t move the needle for the Broadway box office in that case, it did expose the show to an international audience, thereby benefitting the overall property.  However, the films of Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia! differ in terms of their casting strategies.  Whereas Mamma Mia! took the big screen opportunity to woo big screen talent including Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Amanda Seyfried, Clint Eastwood has opted to cast the Jersey Boys movie with mostly stage actors, specifically those who originated the roles on Broadway.  One exception is the recent casting announcement of Christopher Walken, who will play the mobster Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo.  It will be interesting to see if the Jersey Boys movie makes as big a splash without Hollywood actors leading the cast. Two more examples of poor stage to screen transition were The Producers (2005) and Rock of Ages.(2012), both were critical and box office failures.

In any case, the added exposure beyond the stage to the screen can only help increase global awareness of the show.  Like with Les Misérables whose recent film version encouraged the 2014 revival, the Jersey Boys movie will surely increase interest in the show.  Even if, like Mamma Mia!, the film does not necessarily boost sales for the Broadway production, it will certainly help promote future touring and international productions.