How Fox Missed Out on Box Office Hit 'Ted'

Ted Wahlberg Business Suit - P 2012

Ted Wahlberg Business Suit - P 2012

Writer-director Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy") is the billion-dollar star of Fox's television studio, but his comedy was snatched up by Universal.

This story first appeared in the July 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

If Seth MacFarlane is the billion-dollar Babe Ruth of Fox's television studio (Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, American Dad!), how is it that its movie sister company missed out on the comedy hit of the summer?

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MacFarlane's Ted is being distributed by rival Universal after Fox studio chief Tom Rothman underbid for it in spring 2010, falling just a few million dollars short of the $50 million-plus budget that MacFarlane and producer Media Rights Capital wanted.

The price was high for a raunchy comedy by a first-time filmmaker, and the creative elements (including star Mark Wahlberg) weren't locked when Fox passed. But in retrospect, that likely was an overly cautious decision: The trash-talking bear comedy has grossed $135 million since it opened June 29.

Although Rothman tends to be squeamish about R-rated comedy, the studio is about to release The Watch, but that film was produced by Shawn Levy and stars Ben Stiller -- both key to the studio's Night at the Museum franchise (2004's Dodgeball was Stiller again).

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Meanwhile, Fox fought hard to land the Tim Burton-produced R-rated Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which underperformed in June. Says a source associated with the studio, now with the benefit of hindsight, "They let the hit go, and they took the miss."