|Directed by||Robert Greenwald|
|Produced by||Lawrence Gordon
|Written by||Marc Reid Rubel|
|Music by||Olivia Newton-John
Electric Light Orchestra
Barry De Vorzon
|Cinematography||Victor J. Kemper|
|Editing by||Dennis Virkler|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||August 8, 1980|
|Running time||93 min.|
Xanadu is a 1980 American musical/romance film directed by Robert Greenwald. The title of the film is a reference to the poem "Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which is quoted in the film. Xanadu is the name of the Chinese province where Khan establishes his pleasure garden in the poem.
Xanadu stars Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck, and Gene Kelly, and features music by Newton-John, Electric Light Orchestra, Cliff Richard, and The Tubes. The film also features animation by Don Bluth.
Sonny Malone (Michael Beck) is a talented artist who dreams of fame beyond his job, which is the uncreative task of painting larger versions of album covers for record-store window advertisements. As the film opens, Sonny is broke and on the verge of giving up his dream. Having quit his day job to try to make a living as a freelance artist, but having failed to make any money at it, Sonny returns to his old job at AirFlo Records. After some humorous run-ins with his imperious boss and nemesis, Simpson, he resumes painting record covers.
At work, Sonny is told to paint an album cover for a group called The Nine Sisters. The cover features a beautiful woman passing in front of an art deco auditorium (the Pan-Pacific Auditorium). This same woman collided with him earlier that day, kissed him, then roller-skated away, and Malone becomes obsessed with finding her. He finds her at the same (but now abandoned) auditorium. She identifies herself as Kira (Olivia Newton-John), but she will tell him nothing else about herself. Unbeknownst to Sonny, Kira is one of nine mysterious and beautiful women who literally sprang to life from a local mural in town near the beach.
Sonny befriends a has-been big band orchestra leader-turned-construction mogul named Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly). Danny lost his muse in the 1940s; Sonny has not yet found his muse. Kira encourages the two men to form a partnership and open a nightclub at the old auditorium from the album cover. She falls in love with Sonny, and this presents a problem because she is actually an Olympian Muse (she is Terpsichore, the muse of dance). The other eight women from the beginning of the movie are her sisters and fellow goddesses, the Muses, and the mural is actually a portal of sorts and their point of entry to Earth.
The Muses visit Earth often to help inspire others to pursue their dreams and desires. But in Kira's case, she has broken the rules, as she was only supposed to inspire Sonny but has ended up falling in love with him as well. Her parents (presumably the Greek gods Zeus and Mnemosyne) recall her to the timeless realm of the gods. Sonny follows her through the mural and professes his love for her.
A short debate between Sonny and Zeus occurs with Mnemosyne interceding on Kira and Sonny's behalf. Kira then enters the discussion, saying the emotions she has toward Sonny are new to her--if only they could have one more night together, Sonny's dream of success for the nightclub Xanadu could come true. But Zeus ultimately sends Sonny back to Earth. After Kira expresses her feelings for Sonny in the song "Suspended In Time," Zeus and Mnemosyne decide to let Kira go to him for a "moment, or maybe forever" (mortal time confuses them), and the audience is left to wonder her fate.
In the finale of the movie, Kira and the Muses perform for a packed house at Xanadu's grand opening, and after Kira's final song they return to the realm of the gods in spectacular fashion. With their departure, Sonny is understandably depressed, but that quickly changes when Danny has one of the waitresses bring Sonny a drink. The waitress is an exact look-alike of Kira. Sonny approaches this enigmatic doppelgänger and says he would just like to talk to her. The film ends with the two of them talking, in silhouette, as the credits begin to roll.
The film barely broke even at the box office and had a mixed critical reception, with a percentage of 41% from the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The soundtrack (No. 4 Billboard), however, was a commercial success. It was certified double platinum and spent one week atop the Cashbox and Record World Pop Albums charts. The soundtrack contained five Top 20 singles:
Xanadu was re-released on DVD June 24, 2008. The "Magical Music Edition" features a "Going Back to Xanadu" featurette, the film's theatrical trailer and a photo gallery. A bonus music CD with the soundtrack album was included. The CD was the film's standard soundtrack album, i.e. with no extras such as omitted tracks.
A $5 million Broadway musical adaptation of the film began previews on May 23, 2007, and opened (with Olivia Newton-John and John Farrar in attendance) on July 10, 2007 starring Kerry Butler as Kira, Cheyenne Jackson as Sonny and Tony Roberts as Danny. Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa co-starred (in a new plot twist to the Broadway version) as "evil" Muse sisters. The show was a surprise hit, was nominated for several Tony awards, and the original cast CD was released December 2007. The Broadway production closed on September 28, 2008 after 49 previews and 512 performances.