OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: 'Oz' gets $25 million promo, including Munchkin guest

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-09-18T00:00:00Z 2014-01-16T16:03:26Z OFFBEAT: 'Oz' gets $25 million promo, including Munchkin guestBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Despite not having our annual festival this week in Chesterton, "The Wizard of Oz" is getting the full treatment from Warner Bros. Studios in Hollywood, which now owns the licensing rights for the original 1939 MGM film classic that starred Judy Garland.

The studio is spending an "over the rainbow" amount of $25 million this month for promotion to push the 75th Anniversary launch of the original movie converted to 3D for IMAX theaters. On Sunday, the new 3D film version was screened for celeb guests in Hollywood at the new TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. This is the same theater space that was originally Grauman's Chinese Theatre where the film premiered in 1939. Attending Sunday's all-star event were Mario Lopez, Molly Ringwald, Kevin Sorbo, all posing for photos with the new Dorothy (as played by Garland) wax figure unveiled by Madame Tussauds Hollywood.

But best of all the special guest of the day was Munchkin Ruth Duccini, 95, one of our regular celebrity guests at the Chesterton Wizard of Oz Festival. She, along with Lollipop Munchkin Jerry Maren, 93, are the final two surviving Munchkins.

After the film completes the one-week special engagement in Hollywood, it plays more than 300 IMAX theaters across North America opening Friday, including our own Portage IMAX in Porter County and the AMC Showplace 16 in Schererville.

The Hollywood Reporter says the studio is also teaming with McDonald's for a set of limited edition "Wizard of Oz" toys in Happy Meals in more than 14,000 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada launching Friday through Oct. 10, with six figurines available, including Dorothy, Scarecrow, Wicked Witch of the West, Tin Man, Glinda the Good Witch and Cowardly Lion. I'm told each character stands on a portion of the yellow brick road, which can be linked to create one long road.

Still eager for more "Oz?"

While Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita" opens today in Chicago, his new musical stage production of "The Wizard of Oz" is also finally hitting North America this week for a national tour that launched last week in Las Vegas.

Yes, there have been a number of major tours of "The Wizard of Oz" to already hit cities in the past, including runs with Mickey Rooney playing The Wizard and in the role of The Wicked Witch of the West, everyone from the late, great Eartha Kitt, Roseanne Barr, character-actress great Mary Wickes and even Lowell's own claim-to-fame Jo Anne Worley as well as Margaret Hamilton, who played the role on the big screen in the original MGM 1939 and reprised the part for several theater performances back in the 1950s. But these tours never had rights to film songs and trademarks, such as using "ruby red slippers." (In L. Frank Baum's original storybook, the slippers are silver.)

The new production unveiled by Weber a year ago for a long run overseas at the London Palladium stars Danielle Hope, who was the winner of BBC TV's "Over the Rainbow" reality show talent search. She is also doing this North American tour, with this musical version developed from the MGM screenplay and containing all the much-loved songs from the Oscar winning movie score, all the favorite characters and iconic moments, plus new songs by Webber. So far, the stage tour is scheduled through June 2014, with no Indianapolis or Chicago dates yet announced.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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