HomeCultureFilm & TV

Why are there so many musical films right now?

4 min read

Why are there so many musical films right now?
From musical to movie and back again, many beloved musical theatre classics are getting a refresh on-screen. But what's behind the growing musical film trend?
2024 is a statement year for musicals. It’s a genre that keeps on giving. From Mean Girls to Wicked, the stage is having a massive influence on our screens.
What’s intriguing about this rising trend is that many of the stories that are now being depicted as musicals have previously been told in more conventional ways. Mean Girls was a hit in 2004, before it was ever altered with original songs, and Wicked wouldn’t be quite as successful onstage had Wizard of Oz not come first in 1939.
So why are so many movies being transformed into musicals for the West End and Broadway, before making their return to cinemas? 

Finding new life onstage

It’s not that uncommon for films to find a new audience in the West End or on Broadway. While some fan favourite movie musicals were originally stage shows, now the reverse is true.
From Back To The Future to Mrs Doubtfire and even a TV hit in Only Fools & Horses, it’s become an increasing trend for well-known brands to suddenly be transformed into musical experiences. 
Of course, this was to be expected when musicals were making the jump from one medium to another. The films Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and even Frozen are natural choices to move to the stage, since they are already full of songs.
It seems slightly stranger that something like Legally Blonde has been imbued with a musical overlay that changes the way the story is told.
"It seems slightly stranger that something like Legally Blonde has been imbued with a musical overlay"
But that’s all part of the point. Not only are these shows being brought to audiences in a new way, and thus keeping those franchises and nostalgia hits very much alive in the public eye, but they are also being reinvented for a new generation. 
Musical theatre is more popular than ever and with innovative shows like Six and Hamilton changing our relationship and our understanding of musical theatre, it seems appropriate that Hollywood studios would want a piece of that action.
Rather than simply making a reboot of a well-known film, it’s become a rewarding pursuit to reimagine those narratives in a way that frees them from the constraints previously placed on them.
Groundhog Day for example doesn’t feel like a natural fit for the musical world, but now a new generation has discovered this classic tale through Tim Minchin’s genius songs.
So the move from the screen to the stage is just as much about maintaining relevance as it is about finding creative new ways to connect with modern viewers. 

A desire to see these stories retold 

Of late, this connection has been so strong that audiences now want to see reimagined versions of these classic stories back on the screen.
Heathers for instance has become iconic as a stage production, to the point that many don’t remember the original 1988 film. The same could be said of Waitress, which is more beloved as a musical, despite the quality of the 2007 release.
With fans finding new things to love about these familiar tales now that they have been retold through the unique medium of theatre, it’s only natural that those same Hollywood studios would want to benefit from that.
Thus, cinema is being influenced by this success on the stage. Not only are these movies making the theatrical productions more accessible to audiences worldwide, but they are once again reviving older properties with a different twist.
It’s one thing to simply film a stage production much like Disney+’s Hamilton or Shrek The Musical, which recently enjoyed a stint on Netflix. But it’s another concept completely to take the musical and turn it back into a proper cinematic experience. 
Matilda and Mean Girls are both recent hits that went on this journey from movie to musical and back to movie again, picking up original songs along the way.
Both were met with critical and commercial success, and haven’t been associated with the many remakes that audiences have become tired of in recent years. Simply put, this transition between platforms is really working. 

Future musicals heading to screens

Cinema will keep on going in this direction, as there are plenty of other musicals that could inspire new blockbuster hits, after already appearing on-screen in the past.
Heathers, Waitress, Legally Blonde, Beetlejuice, Groundhog Day, Back To The Future and Mrs Doubtfire are all case studies to keep an eye on, with any one of these projects potentially heading back to cinemas with new material. 
Later this year Wicked releases with a partial retelling of Wizard Of Oz, while the musical iteration of Jekyll & Hyde is currently in production.
"Theatre fans may soon be buying season tickets to their local cinemas"
Theatre fans may soon be buying season tickets to their local cinemas to keep up with all of their beloved stage hits.
For now though, if you want to see one of your favourite theatrical shows make the move back to the silver screen, it's vital you keep on supporting it. So many of these theatre experiences were given additional chances due to the community support and, with a more devoted focus on the stage, there’s no telling how this could impact the wider industry.
Indeed, with so many movie to musical spectaculars getting adapted, it might not be long until the Sixes and Hamiltons of the world get their own shot at a cinematic showcase. 
Banner credit: Universal Pictures
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter