How New Line Lost 'Dumb and Dumber To' — and Got the Franchise Back

Hopper Stone
'Dumb and Dumber To'

After passing on the sequel (and its huge opening weekend), the studio retains rights to make a third film

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

New Line Cinema executives must have squirmed as the Farrelly brothers' Dumb and Dumber To scored a $36.1 million domestic debut, far better than predicted for a sequel opening two decades after the original.

In early 2013, New Line chief Toby Emmerich let rights to the sequel go when higher-ups at parent Warner Bros. didn't want to release it, even after Red Granite Pictures — backer of The Wolf of Wall Street — said it would help finance the film for less than $40 million and sell it overseas. Red Granite got the project, and shortly thereafter Universal agreed to distribute Dumb and Dumber To in North America and select foreign markets. New Line isn't in the cold completely, and will receive 7 percent to 8 percent of any profits.

Read more 10 Best 'Dumb and Dumber' Callbacks in the Sequel

Now, if the franchise continues, it likely will end up back with Emmerich. Sources say New Line and Warners retained rights to a threequel. In addition, stars Jim Carrey, 52, and Jeff Daniels, 59 — who made $3.5 million each to star in the sequel, according to sources — have options to return for a third film if they are happy with a script. New Line declined comment on its plans, but Daniels alluded to another installment during a recent interview with THR: "I'm not doing season four of The Newsroom, so I know I'm available. [A third movie has] been floated, all pending how To does. This was all back six months ago, with options and all of that." It's not clear if Red Granite would be part of a threequel, but it wouldn't be a surprise if New Line and Warners lay off some of the risk.

Read more Jeff Daniels' Two Faces: "How Many Guys Can Go From 'Newsroom' to 'Dumb and Dumber'?"

Dumb and Dumber To is Carrey's biggest opening since Bruce Almighty's $68 million in 2003 and is a needed win for the actor after a turbulent ride. His The Incredible Burt Wonderstone flopped in 2013 ($27.4 million worldwide), and Mr. Popper's Penguins underwhelmed domestically with $68.2 million in 2011.

Why did Dumb and Dumber To pop? The 1994 comedy, which earned $247.3 million worldwide, enjoyed a vibrant life on cable and DVD, introducing younger generations to the dim-witted Lloyd and Harry. That explains why 43 percent of the opening-weekend audience for the sequel was under age 25, a strong showing for any film these days."It's like the Three Stooges," says Universal distribution chief Nikki Rocco. The Stooges made hundreds of films and shorts, of course, which doesn't sound so bad to New Line right now.