Celebrated writer-director Paul Schrader has been dismissed from EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING over a creative dispute with production company Morgan Creek. Reports of friction have been rampant for weeks, with the NEW YORK POST affirming that Schrader was fired in its Page Six column on Aug. 25, 2003. Warner Bros., which will distribute the prequel to the legendary horror classic, deferred inquiries to Morgan Creek, and a spokesperson there was unavailable for comment.
A tracking shot through New York City, 1948. Through the hustle and bustle of postwar New York, we come up on the docks where two inept baggage handlers are loading crates onto a cargo ship. They are Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello), partners in a shipping firm. While fumbling with the grip, they are reprimanded by McDougal, an overzealous museum exhibitor who demands that Chick and Wilbur personally tend to his crates, however incompetently they behave.
In anticipation of the release of the final film in the series, New Line Cinema has decided to release the extended editions of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and THE TWO TOWERS. FELLOWSHIP will be released on December 5, 2003 in approximately 150 screens across North America followed by TWO TOWERS on December 12. Some theaters will present the two films back-to-back on December 8 and 15.
For those who want to be nit-picky, it's official: Disney/Pixar's FINDING NEMO, which has grossed $328,751,122 as of Aug. 21, 2003, now stands alone atop the animation box office chart, passing Disney's THE LION KING's total gross of $328,541,776, including the most recent IMAX reissue.
Contrary to a report in DAILY VARIETY that Johnny Depp has been offered the coveted role of Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's upcoming film version of Roald Dahl's CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. said the studio is not even in negotiations with the actor and the script is still being rewritten. Stay tuned because Depp is still the leading contender to star in his third Burton film, following EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and ED WOOD, and has never been hotter after propelling Disney's blockbuster, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.
Vancouver-based Mercury Filmworks and Perfect Circle Productions are partnering on a new animated movie, EDISON & NEEMO, produced with a unique blend of stop-motion and 3D animation. The film is an adventurously comic reworking of the mythical and legendary inventor, Thomas Alva Edison.
To avoid a direct conflict with Disney/Pixars THE INCREDIBLES on November 5, 2004, DreamWorks has moved up the release of its underwater mob comedy, SHARKSLAYER, to Oct. 1. DreamWorks had originally staked out the Nov. 5 date, until Disney/Pixar laid claim to it as well in a teaser trailer for the Brad Bird film that accompanied FINDING NEMO.
Hot off its Student Emmy Award for the clever animated short LITTLE RED PLANE, Shadedbox, the Pasadena-based animation studio formed two years ago by a group of college buddies, has optioned its first CG-animated feature to Disney. LETS GET FRANCIS is a fast-paced comedy about two hamster brothers, Joe and Francis, who live inside a mall pet store, and compete for the attention of customers during the busy holiday season.
With the distinct possibly of THE MATRIX RELOADED and THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS canceling each other out in terms of Oscar contention, Warner Bros. has decided to solely promote the latter film, which opens Nov. 5, 2003, a studio source told VFXWorld. It also makes sense from the standpoint that REVOLUTIONS concludes the Wachowski Brothers' trilogy and will have all the momentum on its side if it delivers the goods.
Considering how hard it was to get FREDDY VS. JASON on the big screen, New Line must be smiling now, as the dual franchise frightener (with vfx principally by Cinesite (Hollywood), Pixel Magic and Asylum) scared up $36.4M for the weekend box office ending Aug. 17, 2003. In fact, not even the power blackout that struck the Northeast and parts of the Midwest hindered the horror film, even when power was still out in large areas on Friday night.
THE FAIRLY ODDPARENTS started as a short on Nickelodeons OH YEAH! CARTOONS!, spun-off off into its own TV series, then a 90-minute telemovie, recently became a stripped series and is now slated to be a big screen theatrical. Paramount Pictures-based Nickelodeon Movies is developing an untitled film version with the show's creator Butch Hartman and producer/story editor Steve Marmel, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and confirmed by a Nick spokesperson.
Director Ronny Yu (FREDDY VS. JASON) has optioned rights to the anime movie BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE for a live-action feature, according to SCI FI WIRE. The original 2000 movie directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo concerns a vampire hunter on a military base.
Renn Prod. and producer Claude Berri have scrapped plans to produce a third live-action feature in the ASTERIX franchise, reported the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. ASTERIX AND OBELIX IN SPAIN had been scheduled to start shooting next spring in Spain. Director Gerard Jugnot (MONSIEUR BATIGNOLLE) had been assigning directing duties and Christian Clavier and Gerard Depardieu were set to reprise their roles.
Weta Digital has landed work on both the KING KONG remake and THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE feature. Head of Weta Peter Jackson has inked a deal with Universal to bring his version of the giant ape tale to the screen, reported DAILY VARIETY. The deal is worth $20 million and 20% of the gross to Jackson for his writing and directing duties, which he will split with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens who also helped the Oscar-nominated director pen the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. Welsh is set to produce the KONG redux.
As part of the recent studio trend, DreamWorks SKG has formed a new specialty division, Go Fish Pictures, with MILLENNIUM ACTRESS, the critically acclaimed anime title by Satoshi Kon, as its first release. MILLENNIUM ACTRESS opens September 12, 2003 in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Toronto. INNOCENCE: GHOST IN A SHELL II will follow in the spring of 2004, but there may be more titles in between, including live action.
As expected, Sony's S.W.A.T. ruled the weekend box office ending Aug. 10, 2003, with an impressive $37M (with VFX by Pixel Magic). Disney's FREAKY FRIDAY remake came in second, drawing a very impressive $22.2M and $33.1M for the five-day period, with Jacqueline Allard serving as digital compositor for the VFX. Universal's AMERICAN WEDDING (with VFX by Soho VFX) took third place after a 53% nose-dive, garnering $15.4M and $65.2M in its second weekend.
Mike Newell (the upcoming MONA LISA SMILE and FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL) will direct HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, the fourth movie in the blockbuster fantasy series based on the phenomenal best sellers by J.K. Rowling, and the first to be helmed by a Brit, according to a Warner Bros. Pictures announcement. Production is scheduled to begin in England in April, 2004 for a holiday 2005 release, with David Heyman producing and Steve Kloves scripting.
Italian animation house Mondo TV and its German division, Mondo Igel Media AG, has inked a deal with Neue Deutsche Filmgesellschaft (NDF) to produce two animated features as well as a TV series. The TV series will be the second season of NDFs LETTERS FROM FELIX, based upon the famous German childrens books by Annette Langen and Constanza Droop. The feature projects have not been announced yet. The price tag on all three projects is $5.8 million.
In a move that looks like it wants to recapture the success of its HARRY POTTER franchise, Warner Bros. Pictures has optioned Phillip Ardaghs childrens trilogy of books, featuring the main character Eddie Dickens, reported DAILY VARIETY. Scribe Matthew Huffman (ME AND MY MONSTER) has been tapped to write the screenplay for the first book, A HOUSE CALLED AWFUL END. The story follows an 11-year-old British boy, who goes to live with his Mad Uncle Jack and Mad Aunt Maud when his parents get sick and ends up in the St. Horrid's Home for Grateful Orphans.
For the upcoming feature FREDDY VS. JASON, Freddy vs. Jason Prod used Eyetronics mobile scanning services. The filmmakers chose the technology so they could increase the quality of the visual effects and meet their goals within their tight 10-week production schedule.
The countdown for Aardman Animations WALLACE & GROMIT THE MOVIE has started, as the studio in Bristol, England starts as the DreamWorks-backed feature gets underway in September, according to DAILY VARIETY and confirmed by a DreamWorks spokesperson.
Universal's AMERICAN WEDDING (with VFX by Soho VFX) powered the weekend box office ending Aug. 3, 2003, grabbing a huge $33.3M slice of cake. SPY KIDS 3D: GAME OVER fell to second place, dropping 41% while collecting $19.5M for a total of $68.5M in its second weekend. Hybride Technologies and The Orphanage shared VFX duties for the Dimension Films release.