'Rock of Ages' Bombs: 5 Worst Film Adaptations of Broadway Musicals

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The highly anticipated screen version of the Broadway hit Rock of Ages opened this weekend with a dismal $15.1 million in box office revenue. Considering the film -- with a cast including Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin -- cost a whopping $75 million to produce, it's safe to label it one of the summer's biggest flops.

Hollywood has a long tradition of taking popular stage musicals and turning them into lackluster, or worse, films. Here are five of the biggest stage-to-screen musical failures.

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Why the Stage Version Rocked: The longest-running Broadway show in history, the stunning production has wowed audiences for decades. A brilliant tale of love and loss with eerie undertones, it has been produced in 27 countries. The musical currently ranks as the most successful entertainment venture of all time.

Why the Movie Didn't: Action movie director Joel Schumacher seemed to have aimed the film at teenage girls. Despite visually stunning set pieces, the script fails to come together in a coherent fashion, and many critics agreed the film was far too melodramatic for its own good.

This kind of spectacle might work onstage, where numb enervation can sometimes be mistaken for exhilaration, wrote New York Times critic A.O. Scott. But this screen version, for all its wailing emotionalism and elaborate production design, lacks both authentic romance and the thrill of memorable spectacle.

Cost: $70 million.

Box Office Gross: $51 million domestically.

Rent (2005)

Why the Stage Version Rocked: The 1994 little-Off-Broadway-play-that-could made it to Broadway proper in 1996, and was a spectacular hit. The musical tackled such then-taboo issues as AIDS, homosexuality and drug addiction. It's groundbreaking and poetic soundtrack was one of the reasons the Tony-winning dramedy ran for more than 10 years.

Why the Movie Didn't: By the time the film version rolled around in 2005, the subject matter felt dated. On top of that, director Chris Columbus cast the same actors from the original Broadway production, many of whom were in their mid-30s by that time --  even though the characters were supposed to be in their late teens to mid-20s. The director's failure to make any significant adjustments to update the adaptation earned him accusations of laziness.

The movie, directed without a personal stamp of any kind by Chris Columbus, is so slick that the grime comes from a spray can and the grungy bohemian costumes look rented from a Betsey Johnson boutique sale, sneered the New York Observer's Rex Reed.

Cost: $40 million.

Box Office Gross: $31 million domestically.

Nine (2009)

Why the Stage Version Rocked: The most recent revival starred the charismatic Antonio Banderas as the womanizing Italian director Guido Contini. Based on Fellini's classic film 8½, it showcases a beautifully written soundtrack that includes such heartbreaking songs as Unusual Way. Nine also features several boldly crafted female characters who each express the excitement and pain of their affairs with Guido in compelling ways.

Why the Movie Didn't: Stage musicals have certain logistical limitations than their film versions shouldn't. Directors of adaptations are given a golden opportunity to sidestep the obstacles of a live theatrical production. One would have thought Chicago director Rob Marshall would take advantage of the opportunity. But one would be wrong! Marshall instead chose to set most of the film's musical numbers on the same dull set. Furthermore, Daniel Day-Lewis as a sexy Italian ladies' man proved to be an unwise casting choice. 

Cost: $80 million.

Box Office Gross: $16 million domestically.

The Producers (2005)

Why the Stage Version Rocked: Impeccable dialogue and the audacity to make Hitler funny were two reasons that The Producers took Broadway by storm in 2001. Of course the immeasurable chemistry between Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick didn't hurt either. After acquiring a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards, a film version of the musical spectacle seemed inevitable, even though it was based on a beloved Mel Brooks movie in the first place.  

Why the Movie Didn't: Remarkably unfunny, the film seemed to be trying too hard to earn laughs. It also suffered from a too-literal adaptation of the stage material.

'The Producers' is essentially a filmed version of a stage play, in which none of the characters' expressions or line readings have been scaled down to make sense on-screen, wrote Stephanie Zacharek of Salon. Every gesture is played out as if the actors were 20 feet away in real life, which means that, by the time the performers are magnified on the big screen, they're practically sitting in your lap. The effect is something like watching a 3-D IMAX film without the special glasses.

Cost: $40 million.

Box Office Gross: $19 million domestically.

The Wiz (1978)

Why the Stage Version Rocked: The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical 'Wonderful Wizard of Oz,' which came to Broadway in 1975, was a visionary spectacle. The stage version, which features an all-black cast, premiered at a time when there were next to no theater roles for African-Americans.

Why the Movie Didn't: The film adaptation is widely considered to be an epic disaster -- largely thanks to Diana Ross's appalling portrayal of Dorothy.

This Broadway mainstay is horrifying -- nightmare-inducing, really. Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Nipsey Russell make for a triple threat of overacting and bad costumes in this Harlem-set bastardization of 'The Wizard of Oz,' wrote AMC's Christopher Null of the DVD.

Cost: $20 million.

Box Office Gross: $13 million domestically.

This year marks the release of yet another stage-to-screen adaptation, Les Misérables, starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. Audiences will have to wait until Dec. 14 to find out if it can overcome the odds.

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