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Are Studios Shy to Market Wonka as a Musical?

Based on the extraordinary character at the center of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl’s most iconic children's book and one of the best-selling children's books of all time, Wonka tells the wondrous story of how the world's greatest inventor, magician and chocolate-maker became the beloved Willy Wonka we know today. With director Paul King – who also directed Paddington - at the helm and some solid new songs at the ready, the warmly old-fashioned Wonka puts a suitably sweet spin on the classic character while still leaving some room for the source material's darker undertones.

You may have already heard about the upcoming movie, which stars Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka. The thing is we’ve waited so long for the movie to come out,  its original release date was March 17th, 2023 and no official statement has been given about the cause of the delays. The result was that the marketing campaign started way before his release , clips and trailers were on every social media but ­­– have you noticed that there's barely any indication of the song-and-dance numbers?

It may not be casual, in fact, after showing promise at the box office a half-decade ago with original standouts like Hugh Jackman’s The Greatest Showman (which grossed $434 million globally), studios are wary of marketing musicals explicitly as such. The word “musical” is fraught for studios, note multiple execs. “If you spell out the word musical, people have pre-formed opinions. Musicals have a connotation that [characters] are going to sing every word, and audiences can be turned off,” says one studio marketer, adding that studios shying away from musical elements in marketing campaigns “is nothing new.”

So – it’s definitely not casual. But let’s not forget that music in movie musicals can create emotional context and reflect the cinematic world even after the movie is over. Good songs from musicals have a lasting impact, becoming timeless classics that live on beyond the big screen - as much as dance sequences, which have the capacity to take the audience in another dimension and bring flamboyance and flair to the collaboration of music and film. How can we forget about the impact that Mamma Mia, La La Land and others had on the viewers – movies that were able to connect even with the generations that came many years after their release in theaters. At this point the question is, for the reason that it's a musical –  will Wonka be timeless or just another big flop? 

We’ll soon find out! Wonka had its world premiere in London, at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, on 28 November 2023, and was released in the United Kingdom on 8 December. Will be available globally in theaters on 15 December 2023, by Warner Bros Pictures. Following its theatrical run, the Warner Bros movie will likely end up on the platform HBO Max. While a streaming release date is yet to be officially confirmed, Warner Bros films typically become available to stream 30-45 days after their theatrical release. If this is indeed the case, Wonka will become available to stream in early 2024.

/Alice Sagripanti

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