Filmmaking is a big numbers game these days with studios rolling the dice on big-budgeted movies being big ticket sellers rather than making a string of modestly-budgeted films that may yield modest returns at the box office. But the studios also like tho hedge their bets where they can and so they turn to co-financing deals with production houses, investment groups and sometimes even other studios. But even amongst this new normal of financing comes news of a deal that stands out.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Warner Brothers has entered into an agreement with Paramount to co-produce director Christopher Nolan’s upcoming science-fiction epic Interstellar. In exchange, Paramount will receive from Warners partial rights to a new Friday the 13th sequel, as well as a second South Park movie. Paramount, however, must exercise those rights within five years and make either or both of those projects or else the rights revert back to Warners.
Obviously, Warners knows what they’re getting with Nolan. He is the guy who brought in billions for the studio with his Batman trilogy of films and his thriller Inception did pretty well for the studio as well.
But why these two particular properties? Well, each of them has a bit of a tangled history between the two studios. Warners, as part of Time Warner, held a stake in one of the two cable comedy networks that premiered in 1989/1990 that would eventually be merged into what would become known as Comedy Central. Time Warner eventually sold its ownership to channel partner Viacom, owned by Paramount, but still holds onto a portion of the rights to the hit animated series. For 1999″s South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, Paramount handled domestic distribution while Warners handled overseas distribution. Friday The 13th started off as a franchise under the Paramount banner, but creator Sean Cunningham moved the horror series to New Line studios in order to make 2003’s Freddy Vs. Jason. New Lines purchase by Warners put the franchise’s rights out of reach for Paramount.
Due to these rights situations, future film projects for either would have required some complex negotiations between the two studios, but for the next five years Paramount has free reign to do what they wish. Undoubtedly, the studio will want to get both potential projects into motion as quickly as possible seeing as how the rights were a condition of the deal. I think it should be fairly easy for them to start pulling together a Friday The 13th sequel.
But after they released 2004’s Team America: World Police, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone basically swore off of filmmaking in favor of continuing to focus on their television show and the writing of their Broadway show The Book Of Mormon. Do the pair have an idea for a South Park movie that they have been itching to make and Paramount is acting proactively to clear the rights issues in order for them to make it or is the studio hoping to be able to convince Parker and Stone that they should give some thought to a sequel? Would there be a point in making another South Park movie when Comedy Central has pretty much given Parker and Stone carte blanche to do whatever they like on the television show now? And where does the talked about Book Of Mormon film fit into things? I have a hunch that it won’t be too long before we find out.
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