Universal Tells Spielberg 'No' on Financing Tintin
Back in August we wrote that there seemed to be some confusion over who would be directing the long-in-the-works Tintin - Steven Spielberg or Peter Jackson. A recent article in the LA Times reinforces what most have thought for a while - that Spielberg would direct the first film of the three films, while Jackson the second - but brings up a much larger concern for the duo and the project. Reportedly, Universal has backed out of co-financing the production with Paramount, rejecting the $130 million budget. I can't say Tintin is high on my radar, considering it's a European comic strip that was published between 1929 and 1976. Nevertheless, giants like Spielberg and Jackson not getting their way is certainly newsworthy.
The newspaper speculates on why Universal said no, and it appears the primary reason is the large budget versus potential commercial success. Spielberg and Jackson aren't cheap by any means, nor is animated 3D exactly a huge draw. 2007's Beowulf made roughly $190 worldwide with a reported budget of $150 million. However, folks are saying that Tintin would need to make an estimated $425 million in order for the studio to break even, given the directors' demands on revenues from the various sale channels. I'm no expert on the math associated with such heavy hitters, crossing studios or motion capture 3D, but a project at that's up at that kind of level definitely feels like a stretch for anyone.
Interestingly, Spielberg's DreamWorks is supposed to split from Paramount soon, yet the studio has financed nearly $30 million upfront for Tintin, and hoped Universal would come in and help with the rest. Spielberg's split with the studio hasn't exactly been kind, so we've got to wonder what this means for Tintin. Can Spielberg go back to Paramount and convince them to finance the entire project, or can he get help elsewhere? Also noteworthy is that Universal is a top choice to distribute DreamWorks' new films once it splits from Paramount. So does the studio telling Spielberg 'no' put that relationship in jeopardy?
This is all pretty high-minded Hollywood negotiations, so it's anyone's guess what will happen to Tintin. But given Spielberg's track record, you would think that the guy will eventually get his way, especially since he's coveted the property since 1983. Apparently Paramount executives have seen a representative 10-minute clip of the film and are deciding whether to finance the entire thing. If they do, Tintin may begin production next month. If not, it may never see the light of day. Do you want to see Tintin get made?