20th Century Fox to turn hit films into musicals

Yoda (original costume) The Star Wars films, featuring such characters as Yoda, are among the Fox studio's biggest hits

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Hollywood film studio 20th Century Fox has joined forces with a top Broadway producer to develop a raft of stage musicals based on Fox films.

"For years we have been eager to expand our entertainment expertise to the world of live stage," said Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos in a statement.

"But we wanted to do it right and, most importantly, with the right people."

Kevin McCollum, the producer behind Broadway hits Rent and Avenue Q, is among those co-financing the operation.

He has teamed up with film producer John Davis and entertainment mogul Tom McGrath to match Fox's 50% investment in the venture.

"Theatre is about surprises and things that you haven't seen before on stage," McCollum told the New York Times.

"There are amazing Fox Searchlight titles and great films from the '70s that nobody today has heard of."

Some nine to 12 films will be developed into musicals, bound either for Broadway or US and international tours.

McCollum declined to say what films he saw as potential candidates for a musical makeover. However, Fox's back catalogue includes such successes as Star Wars, Home Alone and Avatar.

"Most important is not forcing anything," said Davis, whose big-screen hits include Doctor Dolittle, Predator and I, Robot.

"A big, popular movie doesn't always lend itself to a live experience."

Potential profit

Co-financer McGrath previously worked for Viacom, where he was involved in the musical adaptations of Paramount titles White Christmas, Footloose and Saturday Night Fever.

McCollum, who brought a version of High Fidelity to Broadway in 2006, is currently enjoying success with Motown: The Musical, which opened on Broadway in April and was nominated for four Tony awards.

McCollum told the New York Times he hoped Fox would become a partner in reverse by bringing his original stage shows to the big screen.

Fox's only prior experience of stage musicals has been as a licensee for productions such as 9 to 5 and Big.

Warner Brothers, MGM, Sony and Universal all have Broadway operations of varying sizes, where the losses are relatively small compared to the film business.

The profits can also be impressive, with Disney recently claiming the US tour of The Lion King has taken more than $1 billion.

"A lot of different companies have wanted to get in," said Thomas Schumacher, head of Disney's theatrical group, when asked about the new Fox alliance

"But to do this with someone like Kevin, a smart producer who knows everybody, is a great decision."

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