Hollywood's video game-themed movies

Is there money in such films, or should media companies not bother?

By Benzinga Jul 29, 2013 12:20PM

hollywoodBy Louis Bedigian

Three years ago, Disney (DIS) took a major gamble and poured $200 million into a new movie franchise.

Unlike "John Carter," this franchise was not based on a book. Unlike "The Lone Ranger," it was not based on an old radio show.

Disney poured its hard-earned money into "Prince of Persia," a moderately successful video game franchise from Ubisoft.

While this was not Disney's worst decision, it was far from the best. "Prince of Persia" earned $90 million locally -- less than half the reported budget.

The film earned $335 million worldwide, but if movie theaters took half of that revenue, Disney would have still been left with an unprofitable film.

Despite these and other box office failures, Hollywood studios are slowly coming back to video games.

This week, Sony (SNE) confirmed that it is developing a film based on one of its own video game franchises, "Gran Turismo." Sony didn't reveal any specifics, but Mike de Luca and Dana Brunetti (who produced "The Social Network" and the upcoming "Fifty Shades of Grey" adaptation) are rumored to be attached to the project.

"Gran Turismo" was likely inspired by the creation of the "Need For Speed" movie, which was rumored to be in production for years but was not approved until "The Fast and the Furious" repeatedly reminded Hollywood that car chase and street racing films are popular.

"Need For Speed" is based on the Electronic Arts (EA) video game of the same name and will be distributed by Disney's Touchstone Pictures.

Independent filmmakers are in the process of filming a live-action Web series that's based on Capcom's "Street Fighter" series. The series attracted very little attention on Kickstarter but was ultimately funded by private backers.

"Street Fighter" is not the only major game property coming to online TV. In May, Microsoft (MSFT) announced that Steven Spielberg will produce a television series based on its "Halo" franchise. The series is expected to air exclusively on Xbox One. (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)

After being disappointed with Prince of Persia's results, Ubisoft decided to team with a smaller company to produce its next film, "Assassin's Creed." Ubisoft intends to maintain creative control over this movie, which is slated for release during the summer of 2015.

While Hollywood has attempted to cash in on video games before, this is the first time that the industry (or at the very least those who make the actual games) seem to be taking these projects seriously.

Sony, for example, plans to produce "Gran Turismo" through its own movie studio. That could go a long way in improving the quality of the film -- and increase the likelihood that moviegoers won't be disappointed.

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