Your 2019 Guide to Upcoming Music-Driven Movies and Docs

Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland
Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions

Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland.

As the music industry turns to Hollywood for its next revenue stream, here are the music films and in-development projects headed to a theater or streaming service near you -- and which companies stand to gain from streaming and sales boosts. 

Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men

Release date: Out now
Key artist label: Universal Music Group/Mass Appeal, eOne, Sony Music Entertainment (Legacy Recordings)
Key artist publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
Distributor: Showtime
From: Showtime Documentary Films, Mass Appeal Productions
Reel deal: On the 25th anniversary of the trailblazing hip-hop group’s debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), this four-part Showtime docuseries boasts rare footage and interviews with the group's nine surviving members.

Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images
Wu-Tang Clan photographed in 1994.

Chasing Happiness

Release date: June 4, 2019
Key artist label: Republic Records
Distributor: Amazon Prime Video
From: Polygram Entertainment, Amazon Studios, Philymack, Federal Films
Reel deal: The Jonas Brothers combine never-before-seen home videos and present-day interviews reflecting upon their rise to fame, and how it nearly diminished their relationship as siblings. Even die-hard fans will have revelations, especially when the guys detail how their success got in the way of their father's role as a pastor, and when they discuss the intensity of their 2013 breakup (complete with footage of that very conversation). The Amazon Prime release accompanies the JoBros' first new studio album in a decade, Happiness Begins, due June 7.

Nick Jonas on the message of Chasing Happiness"For us, it’s not a story about our journey and our career. It’s about our family and who we are, and that it’s possible to go through something with somebody -- family, friends, whatever -- and come out on the other side stronger than before."

Pavarotti: Genius Is Forever

Release date: June 7, 2019
Key artist label: Universal Music Group (Decca Classics)
Key artist publisher: N/A
Distributor: CBS Films
From: Polygram Entertainment, Decca Records, Imagine Entertainment and White Horse Pictures
Reel deal: Ron Howard’s latest project documents the life of famed opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti, with testimonials from Bono and Pavarotti’s Three Tenors compatriots, while newly available archival clips feature everyone from Nelson Mandela to Princess Diana.

Howard on opera's storytelling power: "I thought you’d respect Pavarotti so much more if you understood what it takes to actually achieve what he could achieve. [I wanted] to use the drama of those arias to help tell his story. We could almost create an opera about Pavarotti by using those arias. That was an organizing principle for me." 

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

Release date: June 12, 2019
Key artist label: Sony Music Entertainment (Columbia Records)
Key artist publisher: Sony/ATV
Distributor: Netflix
From: Netflix
Reel deal: Martin Scorsese traces Bob Dylan’s fall 1975 tour of small venues across America, featuring interviews from the time with Dylan manager Jeff Rosen, Joan Baez and Allen Ginsberg. The Netflix production goes with a new 14-disc box set of tour rehearsals and recordings, due June 7.

The Quiet One

Release date: June 21, 2019
Key artist label: Universal Music Group/ABKCO Music & Records for The Rolling Stones
Key artist publisher: ABKCO Music & Records for The Rolling Stones
Distributor: IFC Films
From: Sundance Selects, My Accomplice, Gizmo Films
Reel deal: Director Oliver Murray turns the spotlight on Bill Wyman, the notoriously private Rolling Stones founding member and bassist, revealing the vast library of memorabilia Wyman has collected in his lifetime -- including hours of unseen videos, thousands of photographs and a diary.

Murray on securing the rights to the Stones’ music: "Usually producers want to lock in permissions ahead of the edit, but on this project we had to show the labels what kind of film we were putting together before they would talk about licensing. The music we were after is so sought-after that the film had to offer something new and contemporary for them to be interested."

Between Me and My Mind

Release date: July 17, 2019 (one-night-only theatrical run) 
Key artist label: JEMP Records for Phish, Rubber Jungle Records for Trey Anastasio
Key artist publisher: Seven Below for Anastasio
Distributor: Trafalgar Releasing
From: Live Nation Productions, Stick Figure
Reel deal: A fly-on-the-wall portrait of Phish frontman Trey Anastasio as he preps his Ghosts of the Forest studio album and the band’s 2017 "Soul Planet" New Year’s Eve gig. Director Steven Cantor has Anastasio himself narrate the film, which features conversations with the artist’s bandmates and family members.

The Apollo

Release date: Fall TBD 
Key artist label: N/A
Key artist publisher: N/A
Distributor: HBO
Reel deal: Patti LaBelle, Pharrell Williams, Smokey Robinson and others speak about the legendary Harlem landmark in a sweeping HBO documentary from Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams, which covers the theater’s rich 85-year history with black musicians while also following a production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me on the grand stage.

The Go-Go’s

Release date: Late 2019 
Key artist label: Universal Music Group
Key artist publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
Distributor: Showtime
From: Polygram Entertainment, Fine Point Films and Fadoo Productions
Reel deal: The story of the first all-female band to top Billboard’s albums chart by writing their songs and playing their instruments is recounted in this Showtime doc, featuring interviews with members Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock. 


Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: Universal Music Group
Key artist publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
Distributor: TBD
From: Interscope Films, 1891 Productions
Reel deal: Oscar-winning director Bill Guttentag looks back at the genre-busting ska-punk group’s lasting musical influence -- as well as the tragic death of frontman Bradley Nowell from a heroin overdose in 1996. Lana Del Rey’s buzzy new cover of the band’s “Doin’ Time,” which appears in the film, is also helping introduce new fans to the Southern California trio.

Devil’s Pie: D’Angelo

Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: Sony Music Entertainment (RCA Records)
Key artist publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
Distributor: TBD (U.S.); Amstelfilm (Netherlands)
From: Significant Productions (Forest Whitaker), Interakt Productions
Reel deal: Dutch filmmaker Carine Bijlsma explores the enigmatic R&B star’s long hiatus after 2000’s Voodoo with this doc, set on the eve of his 2015 comeback tour. The film combines rehearsal clips, intimate footage supplied by the artist’s family, rare interviews with D’Angelo himself and comments from collaborators like Questlove.

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: Warner Music Group (Rhino)
Key artist publisher: N/A
Distributor: CNN Films
From: CNN Films, PCH Films, Telling Pictures
Reel deal: Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman profile the enthralling Mexican-American star with this biography based on her 2013 memoir. It’s peppered with anecdotes from friends and collaborators like Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

Mystify: Michael Hutchence

Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: Warner Music Group (Atlantic Records) for INXS
Key artist publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group for INXS
Distributor: TBD (U.S.); Madman Films (Aus.)
From: Passion Pictures, Ghost Pictures
Reel deal: This intimate look into the life and legacy of INXS vocalist Michael Hutchence, who committed suicide in 1997 at age 37, features never-before-heard songs and vulnerable remembrances from bandmates and confidants.

Untitled Led Zeppelin project

Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: Warner Music Group (Atlantic Records)
Key artist publisher: Warner/Chappell
Distributor: TBD
Reel deal: Now in postproduction, the Led Zeppelin documentary from director Bernard MacMahon celebrates the iconic rock band on its 50th anniversary and includes interviews with Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones

Dick Barnatt/Redferns
Led Zeppelin photographed in 1968.


Release date: May 31, 2019
Key artist label: Universal Music Group (Island Records/Mercury Records)
Key artist publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
From: New Republic Pictures, Marv Films, Rocket Pictures
Reel deal: Taron Egerton portrays Elton John in this epic $40 million musical biography from Bohemian Rhapsody director Dexter Fletcher. Giles Martin (son of Beatles producer George) handles the 22-song soundtrack, which includes a brand-new duet from Egerton and John, one of the film’s executive producers.

Martin on how the music shaped the filming: "One of the biggest challenges was finding anyone in the world who could play the piano like Elton. Most classical-trained pianists struggle with rock‘n’roll. Once [pianist] David Hartley came on to the project, I knew that I could change and morph the arrangements to suit the picture. I’d often have to create full new arrangements of songs for Dexter to then go and shoot. It’s almost like scoring a movie before a frame has been shot."

David Appleby
Taron Egerton as Elton John in 'Rocketman' from Paramount Pictures. 


Release date: Sept. 27, 2019
Key artist label: Universal Music Group
Key artist publisher: N/A
Distributor: LD Entertainment (U.S. all media); Roadside Attractions (U.S. theatrical)
From: BBC Films, Twentieth Century Fox, Calamity Films, Pathé
Reel deal: Since the first trailer debuted earlier in May, the Renée Zellweger-starring Judy Garland biopic has already drawn murmurs of Academy Award buzz. The film focuses on Garland’s life in 1969, nearly three decades after she became a household name with The Wizard of Oz.

Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash

Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: Universal Music Group
Key artist publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
From: Cleopatra Entertainment
Reel deal: Controversy has surrounded this film so far: In 2017, production was halted as the heirs of Lynyrd Skynyrd members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines (along with founding guitarist Gary Rossington) sued Cleopatra Records and former drummer Artimus Pyle over the biopic, which depicts the tragic 1977 plane crash that killed Van Zant and Gaines and is partially based on Pyle’s recollections. But in October, the lawsuit was overturned, with a federal appeals court ruling that Pyle was permitted to tell his story of his experiences in the group.

Untitled Journey Project

Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: Sony Music Entertainment (Legacy Recordings)
Key artist publisher: Wixen Music Publishing
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Reel deal: Directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), the film will depict the rise of Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, who went from covering Journey’s songs to touring arenas with the band after guitarist Neal Schon discovered him on YouTube.

Brian Ach/Getty Images
Arnel Pineda performing in 2018.

The Shaggs

Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: Light in the Attic Records
Key artist publisher: Music Sales Group
Distributor: TBD
From: In Cahoots
Reel deal: Inspired by a 1999 New Yorker article by Susan Orlean that was previously adapted into an off-Broadway musical, the real-life story of late-’60s rockers The Shaggs will star Eighth Grade breakout actress Elsie Fisher. Joy Gregory, who wrote the musical book, also will write the film screenplay and Ken Kwapis (He's Just Not That Into You, The Office) will direct. 


Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: Sony Music Entertainment (Legacy Recordings)
Key artist publisher: Sony/ATV
Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment
From: Sony Pictures, Playtone 
Reel deal: As the Carole King musical of the same name continues to wow Broadway, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone, along with Paul Blake, are producing it for the big screen, and Sony Pictures Entertainment will distribute.


Release date: Dec. 20, 2019
Key artist label: Interscope Geffen A&M Records for the original Broadway cast recording
Key artist publisher: Concord for Andrew Lloyd Webber
Distributor: Universal Pictures
From: Universal Pictures, Working Title Films, Monumental Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, The Really Useful Group
Reel deal: Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Idris Elba and Ian McKellen star in the cinematic adaptation of this Andrew Lloyd Webber classic, directed by Les Misérables movie helmer Tom Hooper. 

In the Heights

Release date: June 26, 2020
Key artist label: Ghostlight Records for the original Broadway cast recording
Key artist publisher: The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization (Williamson Music) for Lin-Manuel Miranda
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Reel deal: An adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, this film (due in 2020) zooms in on the life of a bodega owner in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

West Side Story

Release date: Dec. 18, 2020 
Key artist label: Sony Music Entertainment (Sony Classical) for the original movie soundtrack
Key artist publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group for Leonard Bernstein
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
From: Amblin Entertainment
Reel deal: When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way -- even nearly six decades later. Steven Spielberg will helm this remake of the classic musical, which stars Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler as Tony and Maria, respectively. Also in the cast: Sia collaborator Maddie Ziegler as a member of the Jets gang.


Release date: June 28, 2019
Key artist label: Universal Music Group/Apple Corps
Key artist publisher: Sony/ATV
Distributor: Universal Pictures
From: Title Films, Decibel Films, Etalon Films 
Reel deal: Struggling singer-songwriter Jack (Himesh Patel) is the sole person on Earth who remembers The Beatles in this rock’n’roll comedy from director Danny Boyle, which weaves in 23 of the Fab Four’s songs as covers sung by Patel. The film’s music team licensed the master recording for just one Beatles classic: “Hey Jude.”

Blinded by the Light

Release date: Aug. 14, 2019
Key artist label: Sony Music Entertainment (Columbia Records)
Key artist publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
From: New Line Cinemas
Reel deal: A British-Pakistani teen growing up in ’80s England finds solace in the music of Bruce Springsteen in this coming-of-age story, which sold for $15 million to New Line for world rights in January. Directed by Bend It Like Beckham’s Gurinder Chadha, it features a soundtrack of 17 classic Springsteen tunes.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Blinded By The Light 

Summer Loving

Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: Universal Music Group for the original film soundtrack
Key artist publisher: MPL Communications for original songs
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
From: Paramount Players, Temple Hill, Picturestart
Reel deal: Grease fans will finally get the real story of Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson’s fateful summer fling, detailed (both graphically and innocently) in the 1978 classic’s power ballad “Summer Nights.” The Grease prequel was reported to be in development by Paramount in April, so few details have been revealed, but Big Fish writer John August will pen the script.

Love in America

Release date: TBD 
Key artist label: N/A
Key artist publisher: N/A
Distributor: Universal Pictures
From: ColorCreative
Reel deal: Issa Rae will produce the romantic musical, which was first announced last December. She’ll team up with Insecure writer-producer Amy Aniobi on the feature film.

Contributors: Tatiana Cirisano, Camille Dodero, Josh Glicksman, Hilary Hughes, Melinda Newman and Taylor Weatherby 

A version of this article originally appeared in the May 25 issue of Billboard.