To The Dome, Passepartout

A starry new movie yet to find a distributor has set tycoon Philip Anschutz back $110m. Jason Nissé hears of ballooning costs
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The Independent Online

Philip Anschutz, the reclusive billionaire who last year bought the Millennium Dome, has invested more than $110m (£68m) in a star-studded remake of the film Around the World in 80 Days in an attempt to bring family entertainment to Hollywood.

However, the property and telecoms tycoon faces being left with a loss-making turkey after failing to secure a distribution deal with a large studio.

Walden Media, the group set up by Mr Anschutz two years ago, has assembled a stellar cast for the remake of the classic David Niven movie based on Jules Verne's 1872 novel.

Steve Coogan is taking the Niven role as Phileas Fogg, the inventor who accepts a bet that he cannot travel around the world in 80 days, while his assistant, Passepartout, is being played by Hong Kong martial arts star Jackie Chan, who was paid a reputed $18.5m. The cast also includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Cleese, Kathy Bates and Jim Broadbent, while Sir Richard Branson recently filmed a cameo as a hot air balloonist.

Filming started in Thailand just before the Iraq war broke out, and later moved to Germany. Hollywood experts put the total cost of the recently completed film at $110m. However, Walden has yet to secure backing from a major studio.

Film industry expert Larry Gerbrandt of Kagan World Media said: "It's unheard of to commit that many millions without having a major domestic distributor willing to put up the kind of advertising money required for a movie of this scale to have a shot."

Mr Gerbrandt believes $50m of advertising is needed. However, Cary Granat, who runs Walden for Mr Anschutz, is confident a family-friendly movie like 80 Days will succeed. "Phil and I felt there was a gigantic hole in the market," he said.

Walden is now planning an adaptation of CS Lewis's famous children's novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He could even set it in the Dome.