Saturday, September 20, 2008

Universal Passes On Making Spielberg's and Jackson's Tintin Trilogy

LA Times have an article that states Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s plans for their Tintin trilogy might be in jeopardy, after Universal passed on funding the movies. Some highlights from article below:
Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson don't hear "no" very often.

But after they submitted a final budget of $130 million for their 3-D animated movie "Tintin," based on the Belgian comic strip, to Universal Pictures, the studio balked. The decision has left the two powerful filmmakers scrambling to find another financial partner.

When even Spielberg and "The Lord of the Rings" director Jackson, who have made some of the biggest blockbusters in history, can't get their movie made, you know something is up in Hollywood. Universal's refusal to finance "Tintin" underscores how in today's tough economic climate, bottom-line concerns trump once-inviolable relationships between studios and talent.

Until now, however, filmmakers of Spielberg's and Jackson's stature were thought to be immune to the brass-knuckles tactics of the studios. Squeezed by a business trapped between rising costs and leveling revenues, the two filmmakers are Hollywood's latest -- and most prominent -- victims of cost containment.

The particular problem for Universal with "Tintin" is that Spielberg's and Jackson's involvement comes with a huge price tag. The two filmmakers together would command such a large percentage of the movie's revenue as part of their compensation -- without putting up any of the capital themselves, as is typical in Hollywood -- that it takes a substantial slice of the profit off the table for the backers.

Paramount, which owns DreamWorks, where Spielberg has been developing "Tintin" for many years, had agreed to finance half the film but was hoping to have a financial partner in Universal. Paramount, a Viacom Inc. unit, has shouldered the vast majority of the more than $30 million spent on scripts, character design and initial animation and 3-D tests -- even before the movie had officially been given the green light for production. (Those costs are included in the $130-million budget.)

Spielberg has wanted to make "Tintin" since 1983, when he optioned the movie rights at his Universal-based production company, Amblin Entertainment. He has conceived the project as a trilogy, with the first film to be directed by him, the second by Jackson and no plans yet for the third.

Spielberg hoped that "Tintin" would be the next movie he would direct, with production to begin this month. The first two movies, using so-called motion-capture technology, were to be filmed back to back, similar to how Jackson made the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

But in a surprising move, when Spielberg and Jackson approached Universal, which has had a long-standing option to co-finance the picture, the studio decided that the deal made no financial sense. According to several people close to the project, "Tintin" would have to rake in $425 million worldwide in ticket sales before the studios could break even.

The reason: Spielberg and Jackson, who would also produce both movies, would together grab about 30% of the studio's total gross revenue from box-office, DVD, television and other sales. Under that scenario, the pair would walk away with more than $100 million before Universal and DreamWorks could make a profit.