If you were looking for more proof that the board game movie craze might be over before it ever really got started, here’s the latest bit of tantalizing support for your thesis.
Universal, who dropped the adaptation of Clue a few weeks ago, has now put their Ouija Board movie into turnaround. The film, which was being produced by Michael Bay and directed by McG, was reported to have a $150 million price tag, and it seems that Universal got cold feet at the thought of spending so much cash on a film that McG was envisioning as a family-styled romp in the vein of Jumanji. Really? A family film about a board game that allegedly allows you to talk to spirits and the dead? No wonder Universal is backing out…
The studio acquired the rights to craft a film centered on the game as part of its 2008 deal with game manufacturer Hasbro. At the time, it almost made sense since Hasbro’s Transformers was raking in the cash and G.I. Joe was on the horizon. However, those properties were easier to translate into movies – they had characters and a mythology and stories that could be adapted. Universal, in their rush to scarf up potential properties, was left holding on to things like Battleship, Candy Land, Clue, Stretch Armstrong, and the Ouija Board. While Clue had been made into a film before (with a cult following, no less), none of these other titles seemed all that ready for a jump to the screen.
By placing the film in turnaround, Universal is essentially telling Bay and McG that they’re free to shop the project around to other studios – and the duo are already doing just that. Early word is that Paramount – home to Bay’s Transformers franchise – has already passed. This is particularly telling, as Bay’s films have made the studio billions of dollars. One would think if the project was anything short of a complete disaster that the studio would take it on as a way of saying “thanks for bringing us truckloads of money with your earlier work.”
If another studio were willing to come onboard, Universal might also get back into the supernatural mix. With two backers behind the project, cost-conscious Universal could defray some of the film’s large budget – which might make them regain interest.
What’s most interesting is what this all potentially means for the Universal/Hasbro relationship. When the studio backed out of Clue a few weeks ago, Hasbro was okay with the decision – waiving their contract’s $5 million penalty for not making the film and talking about how this move allowed them to develop the movie in the best way possible on their own. There’s been no official comment from the toy company on Ouija, but Universal appears ready to pony up the $5 million and cut their losses on this one – which is a way smaller risk than $150 million.
So, with two projects down, one has to wonder how much longer Universal will stick with Candy Land and Stretch Armstrong. If other studios pass and Ouija dies a sad and lonely death, does this mean it’s the end of the line for Hasbro’s Hollywood dreams of bringing your favorite board games to the big screen? Only time will tell, but as the Magic 8 Ball (which is also in development for the feature film treatment) likes to say, “all signs point to yes.”