Musical theatre fans who are tracking the success of Evita will be happy to hear that the film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/ Tim Rice musical was the #2 grossing film in America on its first weekend in what's known as "wide release" -- i.e. in neighborhood theatres beyond downtown N.Y. and L.A.
Furthermore, the film won its #2 spot, earning $8.6 million, on only 750 cinema screens. The #1 film, The Relic, needed 2,100 screens to earn $9.2 million. That means the Evita theatres were far more packed than the Relic ones. It also means
The New York Times quoted Richard W. Cook, chairman of the distributor, Walt Disney Motion Picture Group, as calling the figures "remarkable."
The movie about the rise and fall of ruthless and charismatic Argentine first lady Eva Peron opened in December in L.A. and N.Y., where it did well enough for Disney to venture into wider release.
Movie musicals have been few and far between since the 1960s, after the failure of several big-budget, old-fashioned musicals ike Hello, Dolly! and Doctor Doolittle. Evita is one of the first 1980's-style through-sung pop-opera style musicals to be filmed. Fans are praying to Evita to built into a blockbuster hit, in hopes it will be followed by movies of Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, etc. Films of Sweeney Todd and Cats are already in the works.
Fans will be watching closely the Jan. 17 wide release of the Woody Allen musical Everyone Says I Love You.
-- By Robert Viagas