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Keira Knightley in a scene from ‘Begin Again’ which will be released in the US on June 27. (AP)
‘X-Men’ scribe Zak Penn to rewrite ‘Ready Player One’ ‘Jersey Boys’ fails to hit high note

LOS ANGELES: June 24, (RTRS): “Jersey Boys,” the Clint Eastwood-directed movie adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, was never going to be “Mamma Mia,” “Les Miserables” “or “Grease.” But the soft $13.5 million that it made in its nationwide debut this weekend had to be disappointing for distributor Warner Bros. Those successful Broadway-to-big-screen productions had Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and John Travolta hitting high notes, while the biggest name in Warner Bros.’ biopic about the 1960s pop group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons was the director. “Jersey Boys” stars John Lloyd Young as the lead singer with a soaring falsetto voice, along with Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza and Christopher Walken. That put the focus on the film itself and the music. The Four Seasons had plenty of hits — “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Sherry” among them — but 50 years later, they appeal to an older crowd. And that’s who turned out for “Jersey Boys,” whose first-weekend audience was 71 percent over the age of 50, and 84 percent over the age of 35.

That shows how narrow a demographic target the film had, but also offers some hope. Mature moviegoers tend not to rush out to see films on their first weekend, so “Jersey Boys” might find its audience. Those who went to the film liked it — awarding it an “A-” CinemaScore — in contrast to the critics who were lukewarm (55 percent “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes). With a production budget of around $40 million, “Jersey Boys” wasn’t too pricey and may yet work its way into the black for producers Graham King, Robert Lorenz and Tim Headington. Brett Ratner and Tim Moore are executive producers.

“Word of mouth is going to make or break ‘Jersey Boys’ in the next few weeks,” Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock told TheWrap. “The opening won’t be all that crucial if those who do see it spread the word. But they have to, because it doesn’t look like the critics are going to.” The 84-year-old Eastwood, famed as a big-screen tough guy, may have seemed an unusual choice as director, but he has musical chops well beyond those he displayed as a singing cowpoke in “Paint Your Wagon” and on TV’s “Rawhide.”

He’s an accomplished musician and previously directed 1982’s “Honkeytonk Man” and the acclaimed Charlie Bird documentary “Bird.” He’s hit a rough patch at the box office of late, however. The last film he directed that really connected was “Gran Torino,” which took in nearly $150 million in 2008. Since then, “Invictus,” “Hereafter” and “J. Edgar” have all underwhelmed. He last appeared on screen in the 2012 baseball movie “Trouble With the Curve,” which also disappointed. “Jersey Boys” was a hit on Broadway, winning the Tony for Best Musical in 2006, and productions of it have played all over the world. But success on the stage is anything but a sure thing at the box office. For every “Chicago,” which won the Best Picture Oscar in 2003 and grossed more than $300 million, there seems to be an “Evita,” “Rent” or “All That Jazz” on the list of Broadway hits adapted for film.

Four years after winning a bidding war for Ernie Cline’s acclaimed sci-fi novel “Ready Player One,” Warner Bros has hired comic book movie scribe Zak Penn to rewrite the script, TheWrap has learned. “Ready Player One” is a futuristic tale that follows teenager Wade Watts, who likes to escape the real world by logging into Oasis, a globally-networked virtual utopia where users lead idyllic alternate lives. When the game’s eccentric billionaire creator dies, he offers up his fortune as the prize in an elaborate treasure hunt. Wade is pitted against powerful corporate foes and ruthless competitors who’ll do anything, in the Oasis and the real world, to reach the treasure first. Donald De Line and Dan Farah are producing the movie for Warner Bros., which acquired the novel in June 2010. Originally published in hardcover in August 2011, “Ready Player One” served as Cline’s first novel and landed on a number of noteworthy best-of lists that year. “Ready Player One” was initially adapted by Cline (“Fanboys”) as well as Eric Eason (“A Better Life”). Penn is a veteran “closer” who has been tasked with getting the script to a point where the studio can start going out to directors in the fall, as several high-profile filmmakers have already expressed interest in the project, especially in the wake of Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus.

Cline and Penn recently struck up a friendship, with the author helping the screenwriter excavate a New Mexico burial site where Atari ditched its remaining stock of “E.T” video game cartridges. Penn, who has story credits on “The Avengers” and “X2,” previously wrote “The Incredible Hulk,” “X-Men: Last Stand” and “Elektra.” He also wrote, produced and directed the poker comedy “The Grand,” and most recently worked on the “Pacific Rim 2” script with Guillermo del Toro. He’s repped by CAA and McKuin Frankel Whitehead.

Stephen Sondheim is now taking back his original statements on the changes Disney made to the big screen adaptation of his Tony-winning musical, “Into the Woods.” Why the change of tune? Partly because the composer hadn’t seen the film when he made his original comments, but he has now. “When the conversation with the teachers occurred, I had not yet seen a full rough cut of the movie,” Sondheim said in a new statement given to Playbill. “Coincidentally, I saw it immediately after leaving the meeting and, having now seen it a couple of times, I can happily report that it is not only a faithful adaptation of the show, it is a first-rate movie.”

Perhaps most important to fans of the musical, not every fun part of the original dark comedic fairy tale retelling has been cut, as Sondheim originally surmised. “And for those who care, as the teachers did, the Prince’s dalliance [with the Baker’s Wife] is still in the movie, and so is ‘Any Moment.’” Sondheim previously attributed the changes to “puritanical ethics,” but now chooses to emphasize the spirit of compromise between himself and “Woods” screenplay scribe James Lapine, the film’s director Rob Marshall and Disney. “The fact is that James and I worked out every change from stage to screen with the producers and with Rob Marshall, the director. Despite what the article may convey, the collaboration was genuinely collaborative and always productive.” “Into the Woods” will be released on Christmas Day.

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