Faithful readers of mine know I love going to the movies on a weekly basis. However, I'm always shocked and sort of saddened by what I perceive as a general disdain for musicals. So many people seem to genuinely hate musicals, which is odd for a country that loves music in general.

Don't believe me? There was a conscious effort on the studio's part to hide the fact that the new Mean Girls movie, released in January 2024, was a musical. This was due to a recent string of musicals, like In the Heights and West Side Story (2021), bombing at the box office.

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That said, a new study conducted by a musical theatre tickets company called SeatPlan looked at the most searched-for movie musicals in America. Using Google Keyword Planner, the folks at SeatPlan examined the total monthly searches for specific movie musicals and then separated them into the top 10 for each state, ranked in order of most searched.

Of course, I had to dig deep into the Iowa data to see what musicals are most beloved. Several were very new (which explains if the main tracking method is Google searches). Here are the highlights:

#1 on the List Was One of the Biggest Movies Last Year:

The Timothée Chalamet-led musical Wonka was found to be the most popular movie musical in Iowa, per Google searches (over 11,000 in a month). If you watch the trailer above, you'll notice Warner Bros. also took the same approach as Mean Girls in disguising the fact that the movie was indeed a musical. No less, audiences showed up in droves.

Serving as a prequel and telling the origins story of Willy Wonka, Wonka was directed by Paul King, the same director who gifted us both Paddington films, which have gone on to be beloved and ranked as some of the best children's movies ever made. He brings a similar magic to Wonka, which has a distinctly different tone than both the Gene Wilder-led Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

A Disney Classic Came in at #3:

Disney's The Little Mermaid found a place on Iowa's list of most popular movie musical. The enduringly popular and beloved animated movie tells the story of Ariel, a teenage mermaid princess who desperately wants to become human and fall in love with a human prince named Eric. This prompts her to make a deal with the sea witch, Ursula, to become human.

The Little Mermaid placed third on SeatPlan's list with just under 7,000 monthly searches.

There's a New Color Purple in Town!:

The original 1985 film The Color Purple was a landmark movie for Steven Spielberg insofar that it showed the director's ability to make the transition from blockbusters to dramatic filmmaking. The 2023 film was not a remake, but an adaptation of the Broadway musical, and evidently is a popular one in Iowa.

Not only is it a terrific (and different) adaptation of the popular story, but it's underscored by some beautiful performances, notably from Danielle Brooks, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role this year. The new Color Purple has garnered a little over 4,200 monthly Google searches from Iowans alone.

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The Top 10 Most Popular Movie Musicals in Iowa:

  1. Wonka (2023)
  2. The Grinch (2018)
  3. The Little Mermaid (1989)
  4. Trolls (2016)
  5. The Color Purple (2023)
  6. Pitch Perfect (2012)
  7. Moana (2016)
  8. Cinderella (1950)
  9. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1939)
  10. Frozen (2013)

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'Are You Dead Yet?' Premieres at Five Flags Theatre

Photos from the Red Carpet Premiere of Jayme Schmitt's "Are You Dead Yet?," a crowdfunded horror film shot in Dubuque, at the Five Flags Theatre on June 14th, 2024.

Gallery Credit: Steve Pulaski

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