Universal, Hasbro team for films
EmptyUPDATED 9:02 p.m. PT Feb. 21
NEW YORK -- Universal Pictures and Hasbro announced Wednesday a six-year strategic partnership to produce at least four feature films based on some of Hasbro's best-known game and toy brands, including Monopoly, Candy Land, Clue, Ouija, Battleship, Magic, the Gathering and Stretch Armstrong.
Hasbro will partner exclusively with Universal for feature films, with the exception of "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe," which are at DreamWorks and Paramount.
The first film emerging from the deal will be released in 2010 or 2011, and Universal will release at least one film a year after that. Hasbro is co-financing script development with Universal and has the option of co-funding production of the films. Hasbro will retain all merchandising rights to the brands, and the companies will share in consumer products revenue generated by the movies.
"For us, this is a really big and important strategic win," Universal chairman Marc Shmuger said. "We've been trying to figure out for really quite a long time how we can get better access to bigger brands and more popular intellectual property, and Hasbro represents some of the most exciting and popular brands in the world."
Shmuger said Universal and Hasbro still are working out which brand will be the first project developed, but sources said it's likely to be Monopoly or Ouija. Hasbro COO Brian Goldner said Michael Bay and his Platinum Dune production company are signed on as producers for a Ouija project, and David Berenbaum has signed on to write a draft of a script. He said Hasbro is in negotiations with Ridley Scott on Monopoly. "We'd certainly like to see Ridley involved in Monopoly, but it's not done quite yet."
Shmuger said the deal with Hasbro puts Universal "way ahead" by allowing it to start with well-known brands rather than from scratch with unknown properties. However, he acknowledged that there would be "a lot of hard work ahead in crafting and developing characters and stories" to bring Hasbro's games and toys to life. "But I think you saw the potential in 'Transformers,' " he said. "The opportunity for (Hasbro brands) to become global events is truly significant. It's huge."
Since the blockbuster success of "Transformers" in the summer, numerous studios have been interested in striking a deal with Hasbro.
"We felt like Universal would be a partner that we really wanted to add to our mix because of their great creativity, marketing prowess and global reach," Goldner said. "And we felt very strongly that their management was very much in sync with what Hasbro is trying to do in the way of branded entertainment ... which meant bringing these brands to motion pictures in new and creative and contemporary ways for fans all over the world."
Universal and Hasbro said they were unconcerned that a 1985 "Clue" film disappointed at the boxoffice. "Because Clue was once done badly, the right way of doing Clue would be fantastic," Shmuger said.
The deal was brokered by WMA on behalf of Hasbro. Debmar-Mercury and WMA are also shopping a TV game; Debmar-Mercury, which has secured worldwide television distribution rights to "Trivial Pursuit: America Plays," has cleared the show in nearly 90% of the U.S. for a fall 2008 syndication launch.