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Avi Arad: More video game movies on horizon

Japanese properties also hot in adaptation market

Hollywood will do for video games what it has done for comic-book superheroes, the producer of "Spider-Man," "X-Men" and "Iron Man" said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference, Avi Arad said that video games are more popular than comic books, so it only makes sense that the film industry would embrace them.

"Very much like when we started with comics, we need one runaway success to make it very clear that this is a great source material," he said.

Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Pictures, which partnered with Warner Bros. on "The Dark Knight" and other blockbusters, agreed. No shock, considering that Legendary is partnering with Warners again on "Warcraft," based on the online role-playing game "World of Warcraft."

"Comic books for a while were kind of like the dregs of what can be made into movies," Tull said. "I happen to think that on the video game front a similar shift is going to happen.

"It's all about the storytelling. It's tough to make a movie about 'Pong,' " he quipped. "But some of the properties that have come out in the last couple of years are incredibly layered and complex."

Another hot trend is intellectual property from Japan. Legendary is turning the manga "Akira" into a film and is working on a "Godzilla" installment. Arad is developing "Ghost in the Shell," a manga and anime property.

While those projects are live-action, Arad and director Bryan Singer predicted that, just as anime is an adult art form in Japan, so will animation become an art form embraced by American adults. He used the Disney-Pixar film "Up" as an example.

Exporting intellectual property from Japan is a huge business, but not so much the other direction yet.

"We understand them; now they're trying to understand us," Arad said.

But Singer, director of "Superman Returns" and the first two "X-Men" films, told attendees he and his films are very popular in Japan.

Columbia Pictures president Matt Tolmach made the point that marketing superhero movies overseas has been challenging. In Germany, for example, "The word 'superhero' is not a plus," he said.

He also cautioned that moviemakers are in "a golden moment of technology," with 3D and various other digital techniques at their disposal. "With great power comes great responsibility, and we have to always fall back on great storytelling," he said.

Tolmach also said he's excited but nervous about his company's upcoming Spider-man reboot, which he described as "Peter Parker told differently." He promised it will look, feel and smell different from the three films starring Tobey Maguire.

"We're humbled by it," he said.