In 1969 with Kent State, the Vietnam War and the cultural revolution, TCF released the 1964 musical hit “Hello Dolly” with a miscast lead and an inept director. Anyone surprised that it flopped? Young movie audiences were still grooving on “The Graduate” and “Wild in the Streets.” Matthew Kennedy provides a history of movie musicals from 1960 to present day in “Roadshow: the fall of film musicals in the 1960s.” Roadshow movies were a big city 70mm phenomena with tickets $4.50 and a souvenir program for sale in the lobby. “Around the World in 80 Days” was the only roadshow I remember in Spokane and Boise certainly was not a roadshow venue.
Kennedy argues that the big studios had numerous roadshow failures because of inattention to details of casting and production. When I was a Idaho Statesman reporter, my office mate Ken Burrows covered filming of “Paint Your Wagon” in nearby Baker, Ore. This was a very expensive stinker with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, but a big deal for the Treasure Valley of Idaho and Oregon.
Kennedy credits “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Sound of Music” as being among the winners. The loser list is too long but includes “Star!”, “Dr. Doolittle” and “Hello, Dolly,” all from TCF which had to sell properties to raise cash and stay afloat. The British got it right with “Oliver!” although Kennedy dismisses this movie even though it was commercially successful. American International Pictures, with its beach musicals and horror movies, made money while the big boys hemorrhaged cash.
Kennedy omitted “Across the Universe” and “Xanadu” in his discussion of movie musicals and these are two of my favorites. With multiplex movie theaters today hungry for patrons, apparently the 3-D novelty is over, which is reminiscent of what became of big budget musicals in the 1960s. Art houses are an alternative but often are not centrally located and are in areas with few parking possibilities.