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.
50 FIRST DATES, the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore romantic comedy from Sony, collected $45.1M worth of hugs and kisses at the box office over Valentine's Day and President's Day weekend. Good enough, in fact, to break the record for romantic comedy and President's Day bows. Disney's MIRACLE was a distant second with $17M and a two-week cume of $40M. MGM's BARBERSHOP 2: BACK IN BUSINESS, last week's champ, had to settle for third place, ringing up $16.5M for a two-week total of $44.9M. Screen Gems' YOU GOT SERVED came in fourth with $6M and a total of $33M.
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.
Twentieth Century Fox and Los Angeles-based MGA Ent. (www.mgae.com) have made a deal for the studio to produce a live-action/animated feature film based on MGA's phenomenally successful Bratz fashion dolls. In addition, Twentieth Century Fox Home Ent. will distribute an original Bratz movie currently in production by MGA on DVD later this year.
Cinesite (Europe) Ltd. has been awarded the digital effects contract for THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (Hammer and Tongs, Walt Disney), which begins shooting at Elstree Studios in April 2004. The f/x house plans to start work on the 300-plus effects shots by the end of summer 2004. Cinesite's Sue Rowe will be providing on-set visual effects supervision for the production.
H2V Entertainments Manga Latina Productions, along with Britain-based UKFS as a financing co-producer, are teaming with the U.K.s Treehouse Productions to turn AP Comics first full-color comic book, MONSTER CLUB, into an animated feature film. Manga Latina is also turning its property ALIEN AND AJAX into a full-length animated feature. H2Vs Louie Porco and Henrique Vera-Villanueva will exec produce both films.
Recently formed Legacy Animation Studios has begun pre-production on an animated short film entitled LUCKY, and, a la Bill Plympton and his HAIR HIGH or Fathom Studios DELGO, Web surfers can watch the production in progress with an online production journal (www.legacyanimation.net/lucky/). The film will be animated with traditional hand-drawn animation, and is the first project for this group of animators and artists formerly employed by Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida.
Reports state the long-in-the-works fourth installment in the INDIANA JONES series is again on hold. VARIETY reports that creator George Lucas was unhappy with SHAWKSHANK REDEMPTION director Frank Darabont's script. The film was scheduled to hit theaters in the summer of 2005, but 2006 looks like the soonest it could arrive on the big screen. Lucas, director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford have wanted to do another film in the series chronicling an aging adventurer, however, the trio has said they wouldn't do it if they all were not thrilled with the same script.
MGM's strategy in making a lower-cost BARBERSHOP sequel paid off, as BARBERSHOP 2: BACK IN BUSINESS debuted on top with $24.2M. Disney's MIRACLE, about the 1980 Olympic miracle on ice in which the U.S. beat the Soviet Union, debuted in second place with $19.3M. Last week's champ, Screen Gems' YOU GOT SERVED, dipped to third in its second outing, collecting $7.5M and $25.8M to date. Universal's ALONG CAME POLLY came in fourth with $6.8M and a cume of $75M.
Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (THE RETURN OF THE KING), who was in Los Angeles over the weekend competing at the 18th annual ASC Awards (John Schwartzman won for SEABISCUIT), told VFXWORLD that he will be reuniting with director Peter Jackson to lense the upcoming KING KONG remake -- and that he's very open to shooting in black and white.
Universal Pictures is in final negotiations with AMERICAN SPLENDOR creative duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini to write and direct a re-envisioning of the horror classic, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Set to produce the project are Imagine Entertainment's Brian Grazer and Alphaville's Sean Daniel and James Jacks with Universal's Ally Brecker-Shearmur and Imagine's David Bernardi serving as exec producers. The story would be set in modern New York and center around a college student who over time begins to suspect that she died and was resurrected.
DreamWorks has signed a seven-figure deal with writer John Ridley to pen the animated feature, THE UNPROFESSIONALS, reported VARIETY. The film will chronicle the misadventures of a trio of unlucky monkeys. Ridley previously worked in toon town on the Web animation series UNDERCOVER BROTHER, which was made into a live-action theatrical feature, and THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS, which was released as an animated feature compilation on DVD. Mike LaChance, Chris Cuzer and Jeffrey Katzenberg will serve as producers on the new project.
New Line Cinema have tapped writers Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN) to pen the screen adaptation of DC Comics' SHAZAM!. William Goldman (PRINCESS BRIDE) had been working on the script previously. The film would chronicle the easygoing Billy Batson and his superhero alter ego Captain Marvel. Batson changed by saying the word "shazam," giving the attributes to six Greek gods. The character appeared in DC Comics in the 1970s and originally appeared in the 1940s as a Fawcett Comics title.
New 3D CG feature animation studio, CritterPix Studios, located in San Rafael, California, has secured representation of Hollywood heavyweight attorneys, Jake Bloom, of Bloom, Hergott and Diemer, and also that of Fred Bernstein of Manatt, Philips and Phelps, to land a distribution deal with a studio for CritterPixs first feature project.
Despite a recent online account that Disney quietly pulled the plug in November on GNOMEO AND JULIET, the studio maintains that any rumors of its demise are premature. Indeed, producer Don Hahn told SCIFIWIRE that the computer-animated riff on Shakespeare's classic tale about two star-crossed ceramic gnomes set in England is still in development. Elton John (a co-producer through his Rocket Pictures) and Tim Rice have written songs, and Ewan McGregor is still on track to voice Gnomeo, though no mention was made about Kate Winslet still voicing Juliet.
Bill Plympton's new independent feature HAIR HIGH will have its West Coast premiere at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival on Feb. 14, 2004.
Screen Gems' street dancing movie, YOU GOT SERVED, topped the box office chart for the weekend ended Feb. 1, 2004, scoring $16.1M, despite being slowed by the exciting Super Bowl game and Janet Jackson's breast-baring half-time controversy. New Line's sci-fi thriller, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT (with VFX by Schminken Studio and Toybox), came in a distant second in its sophomore outing with $9.5M and a cume of $31.7M. Universal's ALONG CAME POLLY settled for third place with $9.3M and a total of $66M.