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‘The Color Purple’ Producers Oprah Winfrey & Scott Sanders On Gayle King’s Early Impact; Size Up Pic’s Box Office & Avail To Masses Post-Theatrical – Crew Call Podcast

On this morning’s Crew Call, we talk with The Color Purple producers Oprah Winfrey and Scott Sanders on blazing a path for their Broadway musical to the big screen.

Winfrey, who starred in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 feature take of the Alice Walker novel, gives props to best friend Gayle King for the actual Broadway musical.

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You can listen to our conversation below:

While Sanders, the producer on the original stage musical, was rehearsing during the early aughts, King went to see it, expecting the show to be a waste of time. King was ready to relay some bad news to Winfrey. However, that didn’t happen, and a $11M stage production reaped $103M on Broadway in its first 2005-08 run.

Winfrey says that King “ended up staying for the full rehearsal and then calling me, saying, ‘You’ve got to come see this!'”

Sanders says, “I remember going over to her, it was a workshop before we even got a theater in 2005, and Gail came and she said, ‘I have a lunch at one, how long is this?’ And I said, ‘Two hours.’ And she said, ‘Well, I’m not going to be able to stay for both acts.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s a shame because the ending is more uplifting than the beginning.’ And at the end of the first act, I went over to her and said, ‘I’m really sorry, you’re not gonna be able to stay. I’d love to have you back as my guest when we come to Broadway.’ And she had a tear coming down her face and she said, ‘I’ve canceled my lunch. I’m staying.'”

As Winfrey regaled at the Hollywood premiere for Color Purple, she had to ask Spielberg for the film rights, who held off on giving them. At one point, NBC wanted to do a live production, but Winfrey and Sanders passed on that.

Fantasia Barrino in ‘The Color Purple’
Fantasia Barrino in ‘The Color Purple’

We chat further about the doing about the dynamic creative alchemy that was created on set, and why filmmaker Blitz Bazawule was the right guy to take the helm.

Winfrey says “he got the magical realism and understood how to tap into Celie’s imagination.”

The feature production cost $90M before P&A, and despite a strong first Christmas day haul plus group previews of $18.1M, the movie, while it fired up the fanbase, hasn’t kept up its legs at the box office. The pic has only made $58.5M stateside through MLK weekend. But Winfrey is looking for the movie to resonate in the home entertainment market.

Says Winfrey, “I feel that we did exactly what we wanted to do in terms of rallying the base for supporting us on Christmas Day. I wish that we had said, ‘After Christmas Day, you all need to still keep going to the theaters’, because I think the message was very clear that everybody should go out on Christmas Day and everybody should be wearing their purple and they should do everything you could to support the movie during that time.”

“I wish that more people were going to the theaters every weekend now. But I also am looking forward to it being available for the rest of the country and the rest of the world, so that they can just hit a button and there it is on SVOD,” says the multihyphenate.

Says Winfrey, “Would I have liked to have seen more Box Office? Yes, but I’m also excited about it being made available to everyone else.”

The Color Purple is up for five Critics Choice Awards today, including Best Picture.

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