WWE ramps up film production to save costs

'Legendary' is first release under new strategy

PHOENIX -- WWE Studios plans to shoot more movies back-to-back as part of its new film strategy to take advantage of cost efficiencies.

Michelle Wilson, executive vp of marketing, mentioned the sped-up and streamlined production process here Saturday.

Speaking at the sports entertainment company's annual Global Partners Summit a day ahead of pay-per-view extravaganza WrestleMania 26, Wilson said WWE just wrapped production of its third film under its new strategy, which was unveiled only earlier this year. The film stars Ed Harris and WWE superstar Randy Orton in a coming-of-age story.

WWE plans to release nine films over the next two and a half years with nearly back-to-back shoots for many to ensure production efficiencies, Wilson said, highlighting that WWE also produces live and TV shows in rapid-fire fashion all year long.

The first movie under the firm's new strategy, "Legendary" with Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover and WWE star John Cena, will hit theaters in September.

It will be the first example of WWE experimenting with release windows, which it plans to do regularly, according to Wilson.

"Legendary" will get a limited two-week U.S. theatrical run thanks to distribution partner Samuel Goldwyn Films, followed by a DVD launch right after that to take advantage of a single marketing campaign, Wilson said.

The movie is about a teenager looking to reunite his family through high school wrestling, which previously tore his family apart due to a tragedy.

Saturday's WWE business partner event featured well-received trailers for "Legendary" and family comedy "Knucklehead," the second WWE film under its new studio strategy, which hits theaters in early November. It features Mark Feuerstein, Melora Hardin, Dennis Farina and WWE star Paul "Big Show" Wight as a giant orphan who learns to become a wrestler to save his orphanage.

Next year will feature three WWE film releases.

Before the strategic re-tooling of its studio, WWE worked with large studios as distribution partners, such as Lionsgate and Fox, used larger production budgets than the now targeted $5 million-$7 million per film, focused only on action flicks before expanding its range of genres and used to put its stars in lead roles. Now it looks for them to support well-known actors. The strategy is designed to boost film profits, which haven't been significant enough, by making WWE a de-facto indie film studio, Wilson said.

Saturday's business partner summit included executives from TV and advertising partners, such as the USA network, new toy partner Mattel, Slim Jim, 7 Eleven and THQ.
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