[[Halo Movie Update]]
The latest news from the Halo/Halo 2 movie deal suggests that Universal Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox teamed up to offer Microsoft an initial payment of USD 5 million plus 10 per cent of initial box office receipts. This deal is still not final, with neither party wishing to comment until next week.
If a deal is struck it would suggest a Microsoft victory over Hollywood as the computer giant definitely chose not to play by the rules set out by the big studios. MS hired writer Alex Garland, known for his work on the zombie 2003 hit 28 Days Later, to come up with the story. Microsoft and agents CAA then mailed their script to the studios and unleashed a barrage of demands, including a degree of creative control.
Microsoft spokesman Carlos de Leon mentioned that soon after the game's initial success in 2001, studios approached Microsoft for the rights to a Halo movie, but the company wanted to retain some form of control over the project. It was only natural that interest increased as Halo 2 sold 2.4 million units in its first day. Overall, the franchise has sold 13 million units worldwide, generating some USD 600 million in revenue. The interest alerted Microsoft to the possibilities and a plan begun to take shape. Microsoft is not in the business of making movies, and that is why we want to partner with the studios. (But) we have an obligation to make sure the 'Halo' franchise is protected and is something 'Halo' fans can be proud of, said de Leon.
This interest exhibited by Microsoft is a double-edged sword which could alienate fans if the project fails to meet their expectations since then the company may be considered solely responsible for any of the project's misgivings.
Microsoft's negotiations with Hollywood for the rights to the Halo movie may be a sign of the growing power of the gaming industry. The terms set by Microsoft and the company's demands may pave the way for better treatment of game-to-movie projects, but a lot will depend on how the final product will be received by the viewing public.
Creative Artists Agency, Microsoft's agents negotiating the Halo rights deal, put forth an aggressive proposal which outraged movie studio executives. Microsoft's demands included a USD 10 million upfront fee for the rights to the Halo movie, 15 per cent of initial gross box office sales, approval over the cast and director and a mere 60 first-class plane tickets for MS people to the movie premiere. This attitude by MS led to some tension with five studios dropping out of the bidding within 24 hours of reading the script, with DreamWorks SKG and Paramount Pictures among the first dropouts. The two that remained, 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures, seemed daunted by the price although it is rumored that a deal with one of the two is near completion.
This being Microsoft, we do have to be careful about deciding what is true and what is hype but the fact that Hollywood is listening carefully to the gaming community cannot be denied. The recent onslaught of Uwe Boll gaming related projects has left the industry's credibility in tatters; of the most popular adaptations only one has earned more than USD 100 million in the US: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Hopefully Microsoft will be careful with its product and will avoid hiring Uwe Boll as its director, let us all hope that Far Cry is the last title sacrificed on that particular altar.