Gary Ross, writer/director of the Academy Award-nominated live action feature SEABISCUIT, has begun development on an animated feature based on Kate DiCamillo's Newberry Medal-winning children's book, THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX: BEING THE STORY OF A MOUSE, A PRINCESS, SOME SOUP, AND A SPOOL OF THREAD, reported HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Universal Pictures optioned the novel and Ross will produce the film at his Larger Than Prods. The story follows an exiled mouse, a light-loving rat and a young servant girl with cauliflower ears as their lives get mix-up with a princess.
In only its second weekend, Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST topped $200M for Newmarket, the third quickest movie in history to do so. Taking in $53.2M on an additional 127 screens for the period ended March 7, 2004, THE PASSION led the box office chart in what appears to be a phenomenon in the making. At $213.8M, the controversial Passion Play should land somewhere between $300M and $400M, depending how long it plays past Easter.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER creator Joss Whedon will bring his cult TV series FIREFLY to the big screen in his feature film directorial debut, SERENITY. The film will be set six months after the end of the TV series and continue the adventures of the crew of the spaceship Serenity. Barry Mendel (THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE) will produce with Chris Buchanan, president of Whedon's Mutant Enemy production company, and Alisa Tager of Barry Mendel Prods. serving as exec producers.
Mel Gibsons THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST continued its assault on the box office this week, racking up $10.1M on Monday, $9.2M on Tuesday, $8.4M on Wednesday and $7.6M on Thursday, bringing its nine-day total to an astounding $160.6M. To put these numbers into perspective, RETURN OF THE KING earned $171.M during a comparable period, while SPIDER-MAN earned $202M, but that covered two weekends. Box office information obtained from boxofficemojo.com.
IMAX Corp. and Tom Hanks' and Gary Goetzman's Playtone have reached a deal with Lockheed Martin, to have the aerospace company sponsor the forthcoming IMAX 3D film, MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION. The 45-minute space documentary, which will be shot in giant 15/70 format using IMAX 3D cameras, will detail the life-changing experience of the 12 men who walked on the moon by showcasing what these men saw, heard, felt, thought and did while on the lunar surface.
SPY KIDS director Robert Rodriguez has signed on to helm a feature version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' sci-fi classic, A PRINCESS OF MARS, for Paramount Pictures, reported VARIETY. The film will be produced by Alphaville Prods. and Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios. Alphaville's Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks, along with Rodriguez Troublemaker's Elizabeth Avellan, will produce the project, which is set to begin production early next year. The film will be based on the first book in the 11-novel JOHN CARTER OF MARS series. THE CELL screenwriter Mark Protosevich is penning the script.
Exceeding all expectations, Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (with vfx by Keith Vanderlaan's Captive Audience Prods.) earned an astounding $83.8M for the weekend ended Feb. 29, 2004 and $125.1M since its Wednesday bow for Newmarket, becoming the third-biggest five-day opener ever. That's better than THE RETURN OF THE KING's $124.1M. Only THE MATRIX RELOADED and SPIDER-MAN had better openings. THE PASSION also becomes the best February opener ever, the best opener for the typically slow first quarter and the largest opener ever for a subtitled film.
The Walt Disney Studios has entered into an agreement with Walden Media to co-finance and distribute the long-awaited motion picture THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, the first book published in C.S. Lewis' famed series. SHREK-helmer Andrew Adamson will direct the live-action film, which is due out Christmas 2005. As part of deal, the two companies have left open an option for future films in the seven-book series.
Lions Gate Ent. has been granted film rights to develop, produce and distribute theatrical films based upon Marvel properties -- IRON FIST and BLACK WIDOW. Marvel and Lions Gate will share equally in certain revenues derived from the properties, with Lions Gate funding development, production and distribution and Marvel handling all merchandising in connection with the films. The companies have also announced their plans to begin developing THE PUNISHER II.
Mumbai, India-based 2nz Animation has completed work on the 2D animation portion of a musical number in the upcoming film SHAADI KA LADDOO. Directed by Raj Kaushal and starring Mandira Bedi, Sanjay Suri and Aashish Chaudhary, the film's "Chal Hutt" number will feature actress Negar Khan and animated characters singing together.
Kodak has released two new film stocks that incorporate the companys advanced VISION2 color negative film technology, adding 100- and 200-speed, ultra-fine grain color negative films to the product line.
The live-action feature version of Peter Chung's AEON FLUX has landed MONSTER star and Oscar nominee Charlize Theron, VARIETY. The hot actress will get her biggest paycheck yet -- $10 million. Produced by Lakeshore Entertainment and Paramount Pictures, the futuristic flick has been in Gale Anne Hurd's Valhalla Prods. for more than a decade. GIRLFIGHT helmer Karyn Kusama is directing with Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi penning the screenplay. Filming is set to begin in Berlin in July.
Robert Rodriguez (SPY KIDS franchise, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO) has signed on to direct the screen adaptation of Frank Miller's classic crime saga, SIN CITY. The feature will be based on the three graphic novels SIN CITY, THAT YELLOW BASTARD and THE BIG FAT KILL. Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellan will produce the project through their Troublemaker Studios. Andrew Rona and Brad Weston, co-presidents of Dimension, will oversee the project for the studio.
Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST exceeded all projections, grabbing a whopping $26,556,573 on Wednesday, nailing the biggest opening day gross for a movie released outside of summer and holiday seasons, even subtracting the $3M from private church group screenings on Monday and Tuesday that were lumped in by indie distributor Newmarket.
Daybreak Prods' Chuck Gordon and Prime Universe Prods' Adrian Askarieh have gained the feature rights to Jason Henderson comicbook series SWORD OF DRACULA from Image Comics, reported Icv2.com. Gordon's credits include the DIE HARD movies and Askarieh is producing of the forthcoming SPY HUNTER, based on the classic computer game. No director, writer or cast has been announced for the project yet.
Every studio is looking for its own HARRY POTTER series and New Line is putting its hopes in German children's fantasy tale, INKHEART. VARIETY reported that after a lengthy negotiation process, New Line has obtained the rights to develop author Cornelia Funke's book into a feature franchise. This deal will extend to any future books in what is planned to be a trilogy.
Screen Gems and Lakeshore Ent. have announced they will start production on UNDERWORLD 2 in fall 2004, reported VARIETY. Stars Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman are expected to return as the vampire and werewolf in love. Director Len Wiseman will return with original scriptwriter Danny McBride, scheduled to turn in a screenplay by April. Wiseman and McBride sold the original spec script to Screen Gems, which was given a budget of $24 million and went on to gross $51 million in the U.S.
German firm Boll KG, lead by producer/director Uwe Boll, has picked up the rights to bring another game, FAR CRY, to the big screen, reported HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The company adapted HOUSE OF THE DEAD in 2003 and is in post-production on ALONE IN THE DARK with BLOODRAYNE and HUNTER: THE RECKONING in development for 2005. FAR CRY is a first person shooter game from Germany's Crytek. The picture is budgeted at $25 million and should start filming next year in a tropical setting. Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer, who adapted ALONE, will write the script.
50 FIRST DATES, the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore starrer, collected another $20.4M worth of hugs and kisses over the weekend ended Feb. 22, 2004 to finish first at the box office. So far, the Sony romantic comedy has garnered $71.7M over two weekends. Disney's CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN (with vfx by Intelligent Creatures) debuted in second place with $9.3M. Disney's MIRACLE held the third spot with $7.8M and a cume of $50.3M. Fox's WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT debuted in fourth with $6.77M. DreamWorks' EUROTRIP debuted right behind in fifth place with $6.71M.
Disney has confirmed that it has joined forces with San Francisco-based Hoytyboy, producing a computer-animated feature called THE WILD in conjunction with CORE Feature Film of Toronto. THE WILD is being helmed by commercial director Steve "Spaz" Williams, best known for the Blockbuster spots with the hamsters, and is scheduled for a summer 2005 release.
As Disney enters the Oscar home stretch with the acclaimed DESTINO, the studio will soon unveil its next animated short, LORENZO, at Florida Film Festival 2004 in Orlando. This five-minute black comedy about a fat and sassy cat terrorized by its own tail into a fit of ballroom dancing will have its world premiere March 6 at 12:00 noon at the Enzian Theater. LORENZO will screen again on March 10 at 7:00 pm and March 12 at 9:15 pm.
With the future of the DAREDEVIL franchise in the dark, Fox and Regency Enterprises are moving ahead with the production of ELEKTRA with negotiations beginning with director Rob Bowman, reported VARIETY. Jennifer Garner has already signed on to reprise her role as the Greek assassin. DAREDEVIL helmer Mark Steven Johnson along with his Horseshoe Bay partner Gary Foster will be producing the film. Marvel's patron saint of production Avi Arad will also be producing. Bowman previously directed the feature X-FILES film and REIGN OF FIRE.
Amid speculation that Sony was interested in purchasing Pixar Animation Studios, causing Pixar stock to surge, Sony Pictures Animation announced on Thursday that its first CG feature would be OPEN SEASON, inspired by the humor of syndicated cartoonist Steve Moore (IN THE BLEACHERS). Production has already begun in this comedy about a 900 pound domesticated Grizzly bear named Boog (voiced by Martin Lawrence) and a scrawny, one-horned mule deer named Elliot (voiced by Ashton Kutcher), stranded together in the woods during hunting season.
Miramax has signed indie king Kevin Smith (CLERKS) to write and direct a feature film version of THE GREEN HORNET, reported VARIETY. The script should be finished by late summer and the studio hopes to have the film ready as a summer tentpole in 2005. Universal had long been developing the film until it sold the rights to Miramax in 2002 for $3 million.
The on-again, off-again CURIOUS GEORGE feature is currently in production for Universal Pictures and Imagine Ent., having settled on a 2D look after abandoning CG plans with Industrial Light & Magic because of the great expense and "creepy" look, VARIETY reports.