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'Rent' Film Success Bodes Well for Future Movie Musicals

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By David Easton, entertainment reporter

The Chris Columbus-directed big budget film of the late Jonathan Larson's Broadway musical "Rent" was the fifth highest-grossing film of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The film brought in$5.3 million on its first day of release on November 23, and $10.7 million over the holiday weekend. Total gross to date is $18.1 million. The success bodes well for other Broadway vehicles revving up for the big screen.

The film features six of the original Broadway cast members: Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, Taye Diggs, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, and Wilson Jermaine Heredia.

Although some critics are cynical regarding the ages of the original cast members in a film produced 10 years after they first portrayed the group of twenty year old artists, others applaud the move by director Columbus as instrumental to keeping the artistic integrity of the project intact.

At one point a pop music film adaptation was discussed featuring Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Usher.

A television miniseries was also discussed featuring Neil Patrick Harris, Rikki Lee Travolta, and Wilson Cruz.

There has been a push on adapting Broadway musicals to film since the Academy Award and box office success of "Chicago" in 2003.

"Phantom of the Opera" hit screens in 2004 and earned U.S. gross receipts of $51 million, and world wide gross receipts of $153.9 million.

"Rent" is reported to have cost $50 million to produce with an additional $25 million spent on marketing.

"The Producers" starring Nathan Lane, Mathew Broderick, and Uma Thurman arrives in theaters on December 16 from Universal Pictures hoping to recoup a $45 million production budget.

A modernized hip hop version of "Bye Bye Birdie" is in development at Columbia Pictures by producers Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher, and Rachel Shane. Meanwhile Manny Kladitis is prepping a Broadway revival of the traditional "Bye Bye Birdie" script.

Adam Shankman is attached to direct a big screen adaptation of the Broadway musical "Hairspray" for New Line Cinema.

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the team behind Chicago, also have development deals for adaptations of "Damn Yankees," "Guys and Dolls," and "Footloose."

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