The “Harry Potter” juggernaut is starting to wind down. As the franchise moves closer to its finish line, Hollywood executives are scrambling to find the Next Big Thing — a multiple movie property that appeals to youngsters, has an epic sweep and fantastic landscapes that suit modern CGI filmmaking. It also needs to lend itself to those all-important licensing deals. Rachel Abramowitz, who writes about the film industry for the Los Angeles Times (and authored the book “Is That a Gun in Your Pocket: The Truth About Female Power in Hollywood“), has some intriguing insights into the quest to replace the boy wizard of the box office.
It was a seminar that top executives at Sony and Paramount couldn’t afford to miss. Forty-six of them — including Sony Pictures Chairman Michael Lynton, co-Chairman Amy Pascal, Paramount Film Group President John Lesher and marketing teams from around the globe — crowded around a table recently in one of Sony’s conference rooms.
The reason: to hear a presentation on Tintin, the 80-year-old comic strip series by Belgian artist Hergé about a boy reporter and his loyal dog, Snowy. Sony and Paramount are jointly producing “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” a 3-D film directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson. The $200-million production is set to be one of the big event movies of 2011 and the first in a planned trilogy.
Despite the pedigree of the filmmakers, “Tintin” presents a difficult challenge for both studios: The comic is widely popular abroad but is largely unknown in the U.S.
So during the meeting in Culver City, the studio executives were given a backgrounder by two representatives of the Hergé estate, who touched upon everything Tintin, including the comic strip’s history and its cultural significance. At the same time, the executives debated how to prime the U.S. market for “Tintin” and discussed possible release dates.
Sony and Paramount aren’t the only Hollywood movie studios that are studying childhood classics and plotting strategy. Others are working on “Yogi Bear,” “The Smurfs,” “The Lone Ranger” (with Johnny Depp as Tonto) and a live-action adaptation by director M. Night Shyamalan of Nickelodeon’s animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
Big-screen versions of popular children’s books are also being readied, including last century’s classic “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien and current favorites such as “Goosebumps” by R.L. Stine and Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.”
The studios want to be ready when a gaping hole opens in the family movie market: In 2011, “Harry Potter,” the second-highest-grossing movie franchise in history, will end with its eighth installment, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II.” …
— Geoff Boucher
RECENT AND RELATED
Johnny Depp photo from December 2007. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times.
UPDATE: I changed the Tintin book image because the previous image was one we used too often, as a reader pointed out.