Friday, October 1, 2010

'Rumors from the crazy guy on the corner': Ridley Scott wants $250 million for an R-rated Alien prequel?

According to Bleeding Cool, 20th Century Fox and director Ridley Scott are at odds over the upcoming Alien prequel that Scott has demeaned himself by taking on. Whether or not the world needs an Alien prequel, there is something a little sad about a past-his-prime director returning to the franchise that made him a name in order to salvage his box office bank-ability. Nevermind that the mediocre Robin Hood is his third-biggest worldwide grosser with $310 million, the insane $200 million budget and reliance on overseas dollars has rendered the film as a, at best, near-miss. But I digress, the issue at hand is Scott's insistence on an 'R' rating (fair enough), and his desire for a $250 million budget. Oh, well that... wait, what?!?!

Superman Returns, which included a decade of development hell on various other would-be reboots, cost $270 million. Spider-Man 3 cost $270 million. Heck, even Avatar's official budget was $240 million, and that was from a guy who was following up the biggest-grossing film of all time. Let me put this as simply as possible so I don't spend six paragraphs ranting: The Alien series, artistic merits not withstanding, is not a mainstream franchise. Do you want to know the highest-grossing film in the series? Alien Vs. Predator (ironically the only PG-13 entry), with $172 million worldwide. The entire six film series has grossed just $389 million domestic TOTAL, and $856 million worldwide TOTAL. And if we take away the spin-off Alien Vs. Predator series ($300 million worldwide total), then the entire worldwide take of the 'pure' Alien pictures is a whopping $555 million worldwide, or about what a $250 million Alien prequel would need to squeak out a tiny profit. Domestically, the four official Alien movies have grossed $265 million in the US total. So Ridley Scott wants an R-rated horror adventure at a cost of $250 million, for a franchise that has thus far grossed $265 million in domestic grosses TOTAL.

And don't give me the whole 'inflation' argument. Yes, the $78 million that the original Alien grossed in 1979 would equal about $250 million today, but 1979 is not 2010. Today, we have 3-5 month theatrical releases, with the majority of the business being done in the first ten days. We have cheap DVDs, international piracy, countless online distractions, and countless ways (legal or otherwise) to eventually see an Alien prequel aside from theaters. And when I tell you that the series has proven that it doesn't attract a huge audience outside of the fanbase, don't scream: 'Star Trek!'. Yes, I was wrong about Star Trek's breakout potential, but not as wrong as I thought. Sure the $200 million+ picture grossed a massive $250 million domestic, but it still performed like a Star Trek film overseas, grossing just $385 million worldwide. Paramount was thinking long-term, knowing that a well-liked Star Trek film could produce a sequel on a similar budget that would blast out of the starting gates, ala The Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. An Alien prequel is just that, a prequel film that theoretically ends right before the start of the first Alien picture. So unless Scott's plan is to remake Alien afterward, he wants Fox to spend $250 million on a film with limited branching-out potential.

There's a reason that Predators was such a profit machine this summer. It cost just $40 million, which made its $125 million worldwide gross a smashing success. Fox and Robert Rodriguez knew that the Predator franchise had a limited fanbase, and they budgeted accordingly. The Alien series, especially post Aliens, has always been a niche franchise. It's not Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, or Batman. Even with a PG-13, and even presented in 3D (you know that's a stipulation regardless), a $250 million-budgeted Alien prequel is a recipe for financial disaster.

Scott Mendelson

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Alien prequel is not intended to end where Alien begins. Its supposed to hold its own as a new series set a couple hundred years before the first Alien.

No Alien movie needs to cost 240 million! That's insane. Predators recent entry should be an EASY argument for Fox to say, "HELL NO". I think this reeks of Scott trying to get out of the project and make it look like it wasn't his fault. These are ludicris demands that Scott KNOWS Fox will nto comply with and send him on his way.

My take, let Rodriguez or find Guillermo del Toro to produce. Those men could make a film that looks just like Ridley's 240 million R-Rated wet dream for 30-40 million and PG-13 rated.

This is the first film in about 15 years for this franchise. There is no need to blow money on it. Its gotta be a make it for cheap, if it does well, you'll get plenty more for the next one!



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