‘Jersey Boys’ Movie Sounds Flat Note At Box Office, Screen Version of Broadway Smash Tanks

Jersey Boys, the movie, has taken one of the most successful Broadway shows of all time and turned it into a big-screen box office flop. For reasons that Hollywood and Broadway industry experts will surely debate for quite some time, director Clint Eastwood’s two-hour-and-14-minute, R-rated version of the worldwide stage sensation opened to an estimated $13.5 million weekend, finishing in fourth place for the crucial three-day period.

A rise-and-fall biopic of the hugely popular 1960s and ’70s pop vocal group, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys has garnered largely unenthusiastic reviews from critics.

At the same time, the affluent, middle-aged baby-boomer crowd that has turned out in droves for the Broadway show has proven far less likely to attend movies in recent years, and the summer months are when studios flood multiplex screens with popcorn fare aimed largely at teenagers.

Conventional wisdom would hold that a grown-up, period-piece drama is likely to perform better in the fall, when Hollywood releases its more “serious” films that aim as much at winning prestigious awards as they do at raking in big box-office returns.

Jersey Boys, produced for a budget of an estimated $40 million, will now find it difficult to work its way into the black for its studio, Warner Bros.

The Tony Award-winning stage version of Jersey Boys, running continuously on Broadway since 2005, has pulled in about $468 million at Manhattan’s August Wilson Theater alone, and over $1.7 billion including regional and touring productions worldwide.

Productions of Jersey Boys in Las Vegas and on London’s West End have each been running continuously for about six years.

But in its opening weekend, the film version of Jersey Boys was trounced at the turnstiles not only by the Kevin Hart-topped comedy Think Like A Man, Too, but also by the second week of another youth-oriented comedy 22 Jump Street, and the animated children’s fantasy How To Train Your Dragon 2.

According to Hollywood journalist Nikke Finke, it was Warner Bros, not director Eastwood, who insisted on a summer release for Jersey Boys.

But it was Eastwood who cast an ensemble of largely unknown actors in the film’s lead roles. Three of the Four Seasons are played by veterans of the stage production, including John Lloyd Young, who originated the role of Frankie Valli in the Broadway Jersey Boys and won a Tony for it.

Only Vincent Piazza as the Four Seasons’ founder, Tommy Devito, never appeared in a stage version of Jersey Boys. But Piazza also lacks experience as a Hollywood movie lead. His highest-profile credit to date has been the recurring role of gangster Lucky Luciano on the HBO crime drama series Boardwalk Empire.

“It seemed logical to use people that had this tremendous amount of experience playing it,” Eastwood said, in defense of his Jersey Boys movie casting choices. “Name actors are fine if they fit the parts and everything, but just to use a name for the sake of using a name is not necessarily a positive thing.”

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