Anatomy of a Press Release, Part 2: Disney DROPS Radical's OBLIVION

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Back in August, 2010, we told you all about the story behind OBLIVION, a graphic novel concept by director Joe Kosinski (TRON: LEGACY) that was optioned to Disney Studios for a cool $500,000. It seemed like a lot of money for yet another “celebrity comic” so what was so hot about it? At the time we wrote:

As regular BEAT readers know, studios optioning comics are a weekly occurrence, and yet this one not only gets a coveted Nikki Finke TOLJA! (signifying an important story) but $500K just for some typical comics-to-movie pitch after FOUR STUDIOS were in the running to get it? What gives?

The answer lies in the identity of the celebrity brainstormer. Although TRON: LEGACY is still months away from release, Disney has set its eyes on TRON as its franchise of the future, and they are very, very — as in VERY — high on Kosinski, even though he’s a virtual unknown: TRON: LEGACY is his first film and prior to that he was best known for that GEARS OF WAR TV spot with the song from Donnie Darko in it.


But now, in a story leaked simultaneously to all the trades, comes word that Disney has dropped OBLIVION:

Disney has opted to not move forward with an adaptation of Joseph Kosinski’s illustrated novel “Oblivion,” and is letting the “Tron: Legacy” helmer and Radical Publishing shop the project to other studios and producers. Pic had been developed under the title “Horizons.”

Mouse House picked up the project from Kosinski last August after the book bowed at Comic-Con.


Deadline digs a bit deeper:

Studios are looking at a rewrite by Karl Gajdusek, and I’m told this is a $100 million plus project (not including star salary), so it’s an opportunity for someone to pencil in a tent pole. Calls to Disney haven’t been returned on the subject, but I’ve heard that the reason Disney stopped work after developing the script and going through a soft prep process is that the studio decided that a gritty PG-13 science fiction action project didn’t fit into the Disney mandate. Considering that Paramount, Fox-based Chernin Entertainment and Universal all chased the property before Disney stepped up to keep its Tron: Legacy helmer in the studio fold, I’m told this will get bought by somebody. It will have an easy exit, as the deal came with progress to production language. It’s unclear if Kosinski will direct this next; he’s got Black Hole at Disney, and the studio’s developing a Tron: Legacy sequel.


It’s pretty obvious where all this info is coming from: Radical. As we observed back in August,

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There is hardly a company that does not have some kind of celebrity “vanity project” comic out there made mostly to show to producers as a bible for a film. And all of this is despite the fact that not a single movie has yet been made from a comic book that was published just to be turned into a movie.


OVLIVION was optioned by Disney to keep Kosinski in the fold; TRON: LEGACY didn’t turn out to be quite the major tentpole the studio had hoped for, so bye-bye, vanity project.

It seems several production shingles are still after the project now that it’s in turnaround. It’s quite possible we’ll be seeing another round of PR on this. But will OBLIVION ever get made? It really depends on how hot Kosinski can get. Can he steer BLACK HOLE, another Disney reboot, into box office joy? If he gets a solid body of movie hits behind them, he might get the chance to make his AVATAR…but he’s got to earn that spot.

Radical Publishing is a free-spending but little read comics publisher based on the comics-to-movies business plan pioneered by Tekno, although they have been putting out more recognizable books by people like Rick Remender and David Hine of late. They’ve also recently launched something of a marketing offensive — they were a silver sponsor at the recent Diamond Retailer Summit in Chicago, with a presentation aimed at showing retailers they were serious about promoting their books. Perhaps Radical has noticed, as many publishers have before them, that publishing comics that people actually want to read is a much better way to get a movie made than just attaching some stone cold celebrity.

Comments

  1. “And all of this is despite the fact that not a single movie has yet been made from a comic book that was published just to be turned into a movie.”

    Cowboys & Aliens would be the first, right?

  2. horatio Weisfeld says:

    “…not a single movie has yet been made from a comic book that was published just to be turned into a movie.”

    >>
    I guess Cowboys and Aliens is what you mean- that is probably near final cut by now, so I would say: it’s been made.

    Also: in recent years, both Mike Richardson and Paul Levitz have been quoted (to me) as saying, “We don’t make any money on the comics”, so (taking those guys at their word) doesn’t that mean that every original comic from DC and Dark Horse (and most others) IS a corporate package with the primary goal of development into other media?

    And finally: Is there really a “comic book business,” since I believe that what is commonly thought of as “business” is something which is made for less and sold for more — not something produced at an expected loss?

  3. Fascinating.

    I was going to bring up Cowboys & Aliens, but I see two comments already beat me to it.

  4. So does that mean Kosinski gets to keep the $500,000? If so, talk about a profitable comic!

  5. Dave Elliott says:

    Cowboys & Aliens isn’t a Radical project.

  6. Dave Elliott says:

    Naveen, Radical would have split the $500k with Joe IF it had gone into production, but as it didn’t, Disney doesn’t have to pay it.

  7. Option money is not returned. I never had to return a single Cent on a paid option ever.

    As for Radical, They are a pleasure to work with and let Justin , Paul and I have the time of our lives putting together TIME BOMB for them exactly th way we envisioned it.

    I have nothing but well wishes for them. Stuff like this always happens in the business.

  8. Dave Elliott: “Cowboys & Aliens isn’t a Radical project”

    Well, no, but it is “a movie made from a comic book that was published just to be turned into a movie,” which is the exact, non-Radical-specific comment from Heidi’s post we’re all referring to.

  9. Jimmy is right. In my case, Rat Bastard never aired on UPN, but Ron Howard’s Imagine Television gave me a nice chunk of change for the rights for one year. They spent $450,000 on the project, but in the end dumped a project by Howard Stern, one by Todd McFarlane, and my show when UPN parent Viacom merged with CBS I’m 2000. At the end of one year, I got the rights back. Kevin Altieri did a nice job directing, and Robocop creator Ed Neimeier wrote the script . You can see the mini pilot here: 
    http://m.youtube.com/index?client=mv-google&desktop_uri=%2F&gl=US&rdm=4m2ax5fyg#/watch?xl=xl_blazer&v=1XBLUGxMSsA

  10. Joe Lawler says:

    Cliff, clicking that link took me to a “Katy Perry’s Cleavage Traumatizes Mother!!” video, along with a few others.

  11. The Beat says:

    All: It’s possible that Dave, as a former Radical E-I-C might know more about this deal than we do, but whatever the facts in this case, it is common for option money to be quite low — sometimes nothing, which is ridiculous — with a big fee to kick in should the property get actually filmed. Most deals that I know of (and my eyes tend to glaze over about this stuff) include a progressive fee chart — you get so much when a script gets accepted, so much when a pilot is ordered, so much when it gets filmed…every deal is different.

    Jimmy, from the sound of things, everyone at Radical is good to work with, and they may be putting out some good books. Unfortunately, their book that got the most attention was negative (the Nick Simmon’s plagiarized comic)…at the retailer’s summit, retailers kept mentioning books that Radical doesn’t even publish. As I said previously, a marketing push wouldn’t be a bad idea just to get more of their properties out there and lift them from the pack of #6, 7 and 8 publishers.

  12. Dave Elliott says:

    Two things:

    Jason – You are 100% correct. I misread that quote because it was exactly the same quote that was used recently to describe Radical.

    All: It may well be the use of the word ‘option’ here. Options are extremely rarely paid out in those large numbers. The $500k was the purchase price and a fraction of that was paid as an option which Radical and Joe do get to keep.

    Nikke Finke covered this very well last year.

    Purchases are often paid out in increments starting with the signing of contract, first day of production and final wrap of the project. Anything paid out when a studio cans a project is non-refundable.

  13. Gianluca Glazer says:

    Poor Arvid. Unless Variety recently edited the article, they say that the illustrated novel is being written by Rex Mundi.

  14. Dave Elliott says:

    Poor Arvid. The Beat is using the original teams cover with Ian Edginton credited on it and the cover by Kai Lim of Imaginary Friends.

  15. Gianluca Glazer says:

    Which brings up a good point about how, after years of promoting “Oblivion”, they now have to sell it as “Horizons” because the film name is already copyrighted by a game company.

    Regarding Heidi’s last comment: As someone who worked for Radical and had prior experience in Marketing/Production, doing billboards and giving away concert tickets, by getting your picture taken with a free printed sign, doesn’t cut it. Especially if you only do one fan convention a year and only release 2 to 3 comics a month.

    Boom! Studios has the model for a successful publishing company down pat. They do the conventions. They give retailers incentives through deals and variant covers. They provide press and arm the retailers with promotional items. They also aquire license deals from commercial properties in order to increase sales, provide more comic product and introduce new fans to their other, non-license titles. Boom! Studios has had many film options deals, but aren’t reliant on them to stay afloat. I lot have of those deals have come and go, that’s the nature of the business. If one pans out, like the Two Guns looks to be, then great. Until then, you have to be the best “publisher”, until those years of setting up the films pays off.

  16. CitizenCliff says:

    @Joe Lawler Thanks Joe, sorry everyone — that’s what happens when I try to grab a youtube url on an iPad — lesson learned. Maybe Heidi can delete that post.

    This is a good link — I checked it before posting:

    http://bit.ly/fr3ljr

    Jimmy is right. In my case, Rat Bastard never aired on UPN, but Ron Howard’s Imagine Television gave me a nice chunk of change for the rights for one year. They spent $450,000 on the project, but in the end dumped a project by Howard Stern, one by Todd McFarlane, and my show when UPN parent Viacom merged with CBS I’m 2000. At the end of one year, I got the rights back. Kevin Altieri did a nice job directing, and Robocop creator Ed Neimeier wrote the script . You can see the mini pilot here:
    Jimmy is right. In my case, Rat Bastard never aired on UPN, but Ron Howard’s Imagine Television gave me a nice chunk of change for the rights for one year. They spent $450,000 on the project, but in the end dumped a project by Howard Stern, one by Todd McFarlane, and my show when UPN parent Viacom merged with CBS I’m 2000. At the end of one year, I got the rights back. Kevin Altieri did a nice job directing, and Robocop creator Ed Neimeier wrote the script . You can see the mini pilot here: http://bit.ly/fr3ljr

  17. horatio Weisfeld says:

    Who is this, Katy Perry?

  18. horatio Weisfeld says:

    + Thanks to those discussing reality.

  19. horatio Weisfeld says:

    Sorry for the 3 some — but one more thing:

    jimmy palmiotti
    03/30/2011 AT 10:46 AM
    Option money is not returned. I never had to return a single Cent on a paid option ever.

    >>

    I’m not so sure this discussion is about people being asked to return money on option (No, I’ve never heard of that) as much as people going around saying, “They ‘bought’ it for X” — which of course leads humans to believe that X was actually “paid” for something, when in fact 5% (or so, or whatever) X was “paid”, with a promise made to pay the other 95% if something happens (of which the likely hood of that happening is probably something like .00099%) — So did Dreamworks REALLY “pay” 500K for ASH, did somebody REALLY “pay” 350K for World War Robot, or with Oblivion: did Disney “pay” what they “bought” it for? What a tangled web..

  20. Horatio, Dreamworks paid the entire amount , which is more than you posted above, in FULL to us years ago when we signed the deal.

    If the movie ever got made, there was another Level/ deal in place.

    Hope that helps.

  21. horatio Weisfeld says:

    Dreamworks paid the entire amount

    >>

    Jimmy…

    If that was the case (and I’ll take your word for it) – Happy to hear / Very Nice / Accept my salute.

    - H

  22. Thanks Horatio.

    Granted that was 1996, but we were paid.

    Some deals are made where there is the development money and another payoff when the budget is set and they start shooting….which also might be the case.

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