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Universal Says "No" To Spielberg & Jackson's TINTIN! Paramount Responds "We've Got This!"

Beaks here... It's always news when someone says "No" to Steven Spielberg, but it's frankly a bit of a stunner when that "No" comes from Universal Pictures. Universal has always been Spielberg's safe haven; it's where he got his start in Hollywood (under the tutelage of Sid Sheinberg), and it's probably the studio that will distribute most of DreamWorks' product now that Spielberg's company has effectively split from Paramount. And, yet, there was Universal standing athwart TINTIN's mo-capped path to production yesterday bellowing, "Halt!" And, less than twenty-four hours after Claudia Eller's story hit the Los Angeles Times' website, there was Viacom screaming (per Nikki Finke), "We're already on the hook for $30 million in pre-production costs; Oh, hell, we'll eat this!" I'll admit to being firmly in the "stunned" camp when this news broke yesterday, if only because a two-way split on a (proposed) $130 million picture directed by Steven Spielberg (and produced by Peter Jackson!) doesn't sound at all like a gamble. Obviously, there's the fact that TINTIN is not a hugely recognizable character in the U.S., but I've got to think that the names "Spielberg" and "Jackson" would go a long way towards generating some kind of audience interest. Still, there's this to consider (from Eller's story):
Spielberg and Jackson, who would also produce both movies, would together grab about 30% of the studio's total gross revenue from box-office, DVD, television and other sales. Under that scenario, the pair would walk away with more than $100 million before Universal and DreamWorks could make a profit.
This means, according to Eller's sources, that TINTIN would have to gross $425 million worldwide to break even. That's a lot of coin for a movie that doesn't directly appeal to teens and twentysomethings. Then again, Pixar's RATATOUILLE pulled in close to that amount in foreign $$$ alone; if TINTIN is mostly an overseas phenomenon, I don't see why Spielberg's film can't approach that number (provided it's good). And while this isn't your typical Spielberg film, I somehow can't see the rigors of mo-cap production kicking his ass; the Beard's got a fairly above-average track record when it comes to blending storytelling and nascent technology. I should note that Finke's story has yet to be confirmed by the Times or the trades, but she was the first to the Universal half of this story, so I'll trust her sources on this. Expect Spielberg's TINTIN to start shooting this October.

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