Hugh Jackman Brings In $1.85 Million In Major Saturday Night Dolby Theatre Benefit For MPTF

Hugh Jackman proved Wolverine has the stuff as his “One Night Only” concert at the Dolby Theatre raised $1.85 million dollars for the Motion Picture & Television Fund Saturday night in Hollywood. Each year the MPTF has produced a musical evening saluting the best of Broadway shows turned into movies, but this year 20th Century Fox Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos decided to shake it up and ask frequent host Jackman to stage his hit Broadway one-man show as a benefit for the fund. To say it was a hit is an understatement. Many in the audience had flown in from as far away as Sydney, Australia  for the opportunity of seeing Jackman (who is also again a Best Actor Oscar contender this year for his wrenching role in Prisoners) perform his act and it also drew a major Hollywood contingent including stars like Tom Cruise and studio heads such as MPTF topper Jeffrey Katzenberg and Universal’s Donna Langley who watched her Les Miserables star perform a song from that film to a standing ovation.

Among other highlights Jackman reprised his Tony winning performance in a medley of Peter Allen songs from The Boy From Oz. He also performed numbers from Guys And Dolls  and Carousel, both iconic musicals he had been tapped in the recent past to remake at Fox. Neither is currently on Jackman’s agenda. Instead I hear the long-gestating P.T. Barnum musical is near a go at Fox, with Jackman as the famed impresario finally becoming a reality at last for the big screen, a role that was reported in his future as far back as 2009. I hear the film will be an original musical, Moulin Rouge-style with Dreamgirls’ Laurence Mark among the producing team. As far as I’m concerned the more musicals Jackman does, the better. As evidenced on stage Saturday he is in a class by himself when it comes to an entertainer who can do it all.

The show, which ran nearly three hours, included a live auction run by Jackman that ran up the total proceeds for the evening. Among items sold for thousands were a pair of customized Wolverine claws, tickets to the 2014 premiere of X-Men: Days Of Future Past, an original Wolverine signed jacket, a Panerai watch, and a Fiat 500e personalized by Jackman that went for $50,000. Three people also bought an opportunity to screen “an upcoming 20th Century Fox  film” for 60 of their friends. Fortunately it won’t be Runner Runner.

Although this was a public event, the tone was very inside. Sitting in the front row, Fox advertising guru Tony Sella got the most mentions of the evening with Jackman bringing his name up at least 15 times, a reference sure to be lost on most of the crowd. He also talked incessantly about his publicist Alan Nierob who was there with his 88-year-old father (who got a lot of attention). Gianopulos was also mentioned frequently by the star – and in a very positive light – and came out at the end to return the praise to Jackman and the tireless work he does to benefit MPTF. The Fox leader and his wife Ann once again chaired the successful event as they do every year.

Before the show I spoke with Gianopulos who is clearly very high on their Fall slate, particularly award-magnets The Book Thief and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. He should be. Both films, which premiered last week at the Mill Valley and New York Film Festivals, were well received in their fest debuts and should do well with audiences which could translate into some awards action for the studio which also sports an early Oscar front runner in 12 Years A Slave from specialty unit Searchlight (whose Co-President Nancy Utley was among those applauding Jackman).

Saturday also happened to be Jackman’s 45th birthday and wife Deb led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to her husband. But there was no rest for the weary as Jackman wasted no time in heading for the airport after the show to board a plane for China shortly after 1AM in order to promote Fox’ latest Wolverine movie.

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