Can fantasy epics survive the Credit Crunch Chronicles?
Narnia, His Dark Materials – not even Harry Potter is safe from Tinseltown's recession
Sunday 28 December 2008
America's half-empty shopping malls aren't the only place where big business is sucking its teeth and proclaiming "everything must go". The worsening credit crunch is also threatening the future of some of Hollywood's best-known film franchises.
Disney took advantage of the seasonal news lull last week to quietly slip out news that it has decided to withdraw from producing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the next in the Chronicles of Narnia series of films based on the children's books by C S Lewis.
Blaming "budgetary considerations" for its decision, the studio said it would not renew an option to co-finance the $200m (£137m) movie because the worsening economic climate has forced it to become more selective about the number of films it produces.
It was the second major fantasy franchise to be unceremoniously cancelled in recent months. Earlier this year, Warner Bros decided not to make a follow-up to The Golden Compass, the first instalment of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. At the time, the studio suggested that the decision to abandon the sequel, The Subtle Knife, had been made because the original had upset Christian groups.
However, the real reason was likely to have been more prosaic: The Golden Compass received lukewarm reviews and managed to generate just $70m at the US box office. Although the film staved off disaster by taking $300m internationally, investors were sceptical about a follow-up.
The wider film industry is expecting to tighten its belt in 2009 with even blue-chip film-makers unable to raise funds. Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks company is facing a rocky new year after failing to raise the $750m it needs to produce its slate of 17 films. Some of the money was to have been provided by AIG, the insurance giant that collapsed in September. No new investor has yet emerged.
Even Harry Potter, the most profitable franchise in film history, isn't totally secure. Its screenwriter, Steve Kloves, said recently that Warner Bros was worried about the prospects for the last three films in the series, since J K Rowling is no longer driving anticipation for the titles by producing new books.
Paying by instalments...
Harry Potter Surpassed 'Star Wars' and 'The Lord of the Rings', with $4.5bn (£3.1bn) in sales. Three instalments remain. The 'Half-Blood Prince' will be released next year.
Twilight Vampire tale had teenagers lining up outside cinemas for midnight screenings, and international receipts are $200m and counting. Three further books have already been published.
Narnia Disney pushed the eject button after 'Prince Caspian', the second in the series, took $440m, down from $750m for the original, 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe'.
His Dark Materials Tanked in US cinemas, where its first instalment, 'The Golden Compass', took just $70m. Foreign receipts of $300m saved Warner Bros.
Star Trek Superstar director J J Abrams, a $200m budget and a "sexed-up" plot make May's prequel one of the big gambles of 2009. Paramount hopes to revive the franchise, but the first trailer divided Trekkies.
Da Vinci Code Tom Hanks is back with a fresh conspiracy movie based on a Dan Brown potboiler. This one is set in the Vatican.
Review: Of Mice and Men
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?
Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings
The actor has confessed to his own insecurities
Allotments are the focus of a new reality show
Arts & Ents blogs
The best movies on Netflix: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Record Store Day 2014: Best exclusives coming to a UK independent record shop near you
Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
Misheard song lyrics: Lady Gaga and Ozzy Osbourne's lyrics named hardest to understand
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 KFC 'sorry' after lesbian couple are kicked out of Bath restaurant for 'heavy petting'
- 2 Dylan Tombides: West Ham confirm 20-year-old striker has died after battle with cancer
- 3 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 4 'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
- 5 Saudi Arabia declares all atheists are terrorists in new law to crack down on political dissidents