The MGM lion may roar on Broadway.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., the film and entertainment giant that has a 4,100-title movie catalog, including "Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang," "The Pink Panther," "Legally Blonde," "Get Shorty" and scores of famed pictures, is seeking to shop its titles to theatrical producers in the hope that hits from the silver screen might turn into stage gold.
MGM announced its new initiative, MGM On Stage, Jan. 30 as part of the creation of the new division, MGM Entertainment Business Group, to be headed by longtime MGM executive Darcie Denkert. She will "focus exclusively on developing initiatives across divisional lines to further leverage and promote MGM's massive film and television library," according to the announcement. The news is likely prompting producers and musical theatre writers around the world to rush to get a list of MGM properties that might become the next Producers or Sweet Smell of Success (the stage musical of the latter happens to be an MGM title and begins Broadway previews in February, with a score by Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia).
MGM is not seeking to become a producer or to finance the shows, meaning the company's financial risk is low, but will "capitalize on licensing and development opportunities for MGM properties as stage productions."
The catalog does not include many of the films of MGM's so called golden age: The rights to "The Wizard of Oz," "The Bandwagon," "Singin' in the Rain" and other classics made by MGM up to 1985 were bought by Ted Turner and fell into new hands in various company sales and changeovers. The current MGM catalog includes post-1948 films from United Artists, Orion, Goldwyn and Polygram and post-1985 films made under the MGM banner. A spokesperson for MGM told Playbill On-Line the company is already in discussions with interested parties on musical versions of "New York, New York," "The Fabulous Baker Boys," "Bull Durham," "Legally Blonde," "Mr. Holland's Opus," "The Idolmaker," "Rocky" (with Sylvester Stallone supervising), "The Pink Panther" (to be developed by Blake Edwards), "Where's Pappa?," "Marty," "The Night They Raided Minsky's" and more. Some of these projects are in various stages of development. Playbill On-Line had previously reported about Marty and The Night They Raided Minsky's, both Charles Strouse projects, as well as Moonstruck and, of course, Sweet Smell of Success.
Chris McGurk, MGM vice chairman and chief operating officer, said in a statement, "Establishing MGM On Stage places us in a unique position by providing us with yet another vital platform by which we can fully leverage MGM's vast collection of titles with the minimum amount of risk. By penetrating this important market, MGM can expect to benefit substantially from added licensing and merchandising revenues, while always maintaining a specific level of involvement in the creative process."
Denkert began her career as a theatrical lawyer involved in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, and subsequently has worked for MGM and United Artists for a combined total of 25 years. She joined the legal department of United Artists in 1977 and was promoted to the position of director of business affairs in 1981. She later rose within MGM's ranks to serve as vice president, senior vice president, and subsequently executive vice president, before advancing to senior executive vice president in 1997. She has held senior-level business affairs positions with Embassy Pictures and ICM.