The success of Screen to Stage productions 

With the recent film adaption of the stage musical Cats released in cinemas (to less than positive reviews), it is an interesting question to ask as to whether stage shows can ever be successfully adapted for the screen and on the flip side, whether films can be successfully adapted for the stage.

A recent report by has taken audience based scoring data from Rotten Tomatoes (for films) and Show-Score (for stage shows), to show which audiences prefer*.

For stage shows which have gone on to be adapted for the screen (such as Into The Woods, Mamma Mia!, Les Miserables and the newly released Cats) the results overwhelmingly show that not a single film adaption of a stage musical has gone on to be preferred by viewers. Whilst a few (The Phantom of the Opera, Oliver! and Cabaret) have come pretty close, the majority of film adaptions have had disappointing results compared to the beloved stage shows.

Cats received a rather embarrassing 54% score for the new cinema release compared to 78% for the stage musical and given that not a single show in this list has beaten the score for the stage show, the answer seems to be ‘no – you can’t adapt a stage show to the silver screen successfully.

Click here to see the full results report of Stage to Screen adaptions

For productions that have been brought to the stage by adapting films (Matilda, School of Rock, Hairspray, Evita), the results tell a different story with an almost 50/50 split between whether the stage versions are preferred over the original film versions. Billy Elliot, Aladdin, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Frozen are some of the films that viewers still prefer over their adapted stage shows.

Results report of Screen to Stage adaptions

A Little Night Music 83%
(vs 25% screen score)

Matilda 98%
(vs 73% screen score)

School Of Rock 85%
(vs 64% screen score)

Evita 86%
(vs 68% screen score)

Mean Girls 83%
(vs 66% screen score)

42nd Street 89%
(vs 74% screen score)

Kinky Boots 88%
(vs 74% screen score)

Waitress 87%
(vs 74% screen score)

Little Shop of Horrors 91%
(vs 79% screen score)

Pretty Woman 77%
(vs 68% screen score)

Hairspray 89%
(vs 80% screen score)

Billy Elliot 88%
(vs 89% screen score)

The Little Mermaid 87%
(vs 88% screen score)

The Lion King (1994) 91%
(vs 93% screen score)

Once 88%
(vs 91% screen score)

Spamalot/Monty Python and the Holy Grail 90%
(vs 95% screen score)

Moulin Rouge! 84%
(vs 89% screen score)

To Kill a Mockingbird 88%
(vs 93% screen score)

Frozen 79%
(vs 85% screen score)

Aladdin (1992) 86%
(vs 92% screen score)

Sunset Boulevard 84%
(vs 95% screen score)

Newsies 75%
(vs 88% screen score)

Willy Wonka/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971) 74%
(vs 87% screen score)

Singin’ in the Rain 49%
(vs 95% screen score)

So, according to these audience scores, films that are adapted for the stage tend to be more successful than stage shows which are adapted to the silver screen. But with musicals like Sunset Boulevard and the rumoured Fun Home being adapted to the film screen, it doesn’t look like these reports are worrying Hollywood producers from having a go!


All data was collected and analysed on 21st November 2019 using audience based scoring systems from Rotten Tomatoes and Show-Score, which scores Broadway & Off-Broadway and in theatres in New Jersey, DC and London.

If multiple movies were found, e.g The Lion King (1994 & 2019), we used the original version which predates the stage musical version. Not all stage musicals to movies were recorded (e.g Legally Blonde) due to no data found in the specific scoring systems used. If no audience score was available in Rotten Tomatoes, we used the Tomatometer critic score for the on-screen equivalents and live TV versions.

Reports collated by


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