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La La Land, Beauty and the Beast may have revived musical movies
Hugh Jackman stars as P.T. Barnum in the 2018 biographical movie musical "The Greatest Showman." - photo by Chris Hicks
Earlier this year, my wife and I went to a couple of musical movies that played in the wake of La La Land, whose huge, and unexpected, success both at the box office and with Oscar wins naturally had pundits suggesting that the genre had been officially resurrected and that thered be a lot more musicals on the way.

Of course, the two my wife and I saw were not new: Carousel (1956) on Jan. 11 and Singin in the Rain (1952) on Jan. 18, vintage revivals that were shown at local Cinemark multiplexes.

But there was a new one, sort of, when Beauty and the Beast opened in March. And it opened big.

Of course, thats a remake of a 1991 cartoon, so Im not sure that counts.

And before that, in April, there was Rock Dog yes, a cartoon. So Im not sure that counts, either. Not even if its made into a live-action musical 25 years from now.

In fact, for our purposes here, lets just agree to exclude cartoons.

If the traditional musical that is, movies in which characters impulsively break into song and dance, and an orchestra swells from out of nowhere really has been resurrected as a viable genre, lets just stick to the real deal. Like La La Land.

So here comes summer.

And I see on that we have lots of comic books, cartoons, fantasies, sequels and other franchise features on the way: Alien: Covenant, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Wonder Woman, Cars 3, Transformers: The Last Light, Despicable Me 3, Amityville: The Awakening, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Annabelle: Creation, The Lego Ninjago Movie, The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature.

And the requisite remakes, of both movies and TV shows: Baywatch, The Mummy, My Cousin Rachel, The Beguiled.

But where are the musicals?

This seems a pertinent query, since a lot of us associate summertime viewing with musical movies.

Years ago, when the Avalon Theater was a venue exclusively dedicated to vintage movies, the programming schedule deliberately filled the summer months with musicals, and business was always booming.

Especially since fans of the genre werent getting any kind of steady diet of first-run theatrical movie musicals anymore.

Even into the 1990s we saw nothing particularly notable Woody Allens Everyone Says I Love You, Jennifer Lopez in the biographical film Selena, the sequel Blues Brothers 2000. But none that set the genre on fire.

In the 2000s, things began to look up with the innovative Moulin Rouge! in 2001, followed in 2002 by the adaptation of the Broadway hit Chicago, along with such later successes as School of Rock (2003), Dreamgirls (2006), Hairspray (2007) and Mamma Mia! (2008).

With those hits came a lot of promises of more musicals to come. But it only takes a few less-than-stellar box-office results to keep studios at arms length, especially for such an expensive genre. And too many others underperformed, including the highly anticipated film versions of the Broadway hits Phantom of the Opera (2004), The Producers (2005) and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).

But the 2010s may have helped musicals turn a corner, thanks to Pitch Perfect (2012) and Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and especially last years La La Land and this years Beauty and the Beast.

As a result, quite a few musicals are scheduled for the next couple of years.

In 2017 (again, according to we can expect All Eyez On Me (June 22), a rap-music biography of Tupac Shakur; Anna Kendrick returning for the sequel Pitch Perfect 3 (Dec. 22); The Greatest Showman (Dec. 25), with Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, and Hello Again (no scheduled date), an episodic story of 10 romances over 10 decades of the 20th century, with Audra McDonald.

And further down the road, in 2018, we should see yet another version of A Star Is Born, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper; Bohemian Rhapsody, a biography of Freddie Mercury, frontman for the 1970s/80s progressive-rock band Queen; the Disney sequel Mary Poppins Returns, with Emily Blunt taking over for Julie Andrews; Disneys live-action remake of The Lion King, and an adaptation of the Broadway smash Wicked, a reworking of The Wizard of Oz.

All of which is encouraging. But unless a bunch more show up in between these officially announced titles, it still seems like a rather thin selection to me.

A few annual entries in a particular genre do not a revival make.

If you doubt that, just look to whats happened with Westerns.
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