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Mario Bros. Set For Big Screen in Movie Deal with Universal’s Illumination

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Mario and Luigi are heading to the big screen in one of the highest-profile licensing deals by a Hollywood studio in years.

Illumination Entertainment, which makes animated films for Universal Pictures, is close to an agreement with Nintendo to make an animated “Super Mario Bros.” movie based on the 32-year-old videogame series about a pair of sibling plumbers who fight evil turtles and mushrooms in a fantasy kingdom, said people with knowledge of the discussions.

Nintendo’s marquee characters have long been tempting to Hollywood, particularly now that the movie business is driven by globally popular franchise films featuring well known brands like Marvel superheroes, “Fast and Furious” and Harry Potter. The dozens of Super Mario Brothers games and their spin-offs are widely believed to be the best-selling videogame franchise ever, having sold more than 330 million units total, according to Nintendo.

Other Hollywood studios have sought the Super Mario Brothers rights in the past, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Illumination, which made “Despicable Me,” “Minions” and “The Secret Life of Pets,” has been talking to Nintendo for more than a year about the movie, according to the people who know about the recent talks. The potential deal follows an agreement Universal’s theme-parks unit made with Nintendo two years ago to build attractions based on Marioand other characters.

A Nintendo spokesman declined to comment, as did an Illumination spokeswoman.

Universal finances and releases films produced by Illumination, which it co-owns with the animation company’s chief executive, Chris Meledandri.

Nintendo hasn’t made deals for movies or TV shows based on any of its marquee characters since 1993’s commercially and critically disastrous “Super Mario Brothers” starring Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper. Since then, its only cinematic efforts have been 20 inexpensive children’s animated movies based on its “Pokémon” games that were produced by an affiliate.

The most complicated issue in the negotiations between Illumination and Nintendo has been making the Japanese videogame company feel confident it will be involved enough in the creative process, said one person close to the talks. Nintendo’s creative guru, Shigeru Miyamoto, who created Mario Bros., has been part of the talks and likely will be a producer on the movie, along with Mr. Meledandri, this person said.

The agreement could allow Illumination to make multiple “Super Mario” movies, though only one is currently planned, this person added. It would be animated by Illumination’s Paris studio Mac Guff and is in the early stages of development, meaning it likely wouldn’t come out for several years.

Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima said in an interview last year with Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun that the company was in talks with several Hollywood studios about making movies based on its games. In an April analyst briefing, Mr. Kimishima said the company is making theme-park and movie deals less for the potential profits from licensing than for the additional sales revenue that could come from “synergy with the dedicated videogame business.”

Videogame movies have had a relatively poor record at the box office. Last year’s “Warcraft” was a flop in the U.S., though it did well in China, and other disappointments have included adaptations of “Doom,” “Need for Speed,” “Prince of “Persia” and “Assassin’s Creed.”

Nonetheless, they remain attractive to Hollywood. Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. in March will release a reboot of “Tomb Raider,” after a pair of films in the early 2000s based on the games about an explorer and action hero had mixed results. An “Angry Birds” animated movie last year performed decently and a sequel is scheduled for 2019.

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

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‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ New Trailer

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Academy Award-winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) brings his highly anticipated next feature to the screen, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s stunning novel, If Beale Street Could Talk. We are delighted to share with you the new trailer and first poster for the film which comes to cinemas January 2019

In early 1970’s Harlem, Tish, a nineteen-year old girl, is in love with a young sculptor, Fonny, the father of her unborn child. When Fonny is falsely accused of rape and imprisoned, Tish and their families race to clear his name before the baby is born. A story about love persisting in the face of racial oppression and injustice, Jenkins brings together a talented young cast which includes Stephan James (Selma, Race) as Fonny and newcomer Kiki Layne as Tish.

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‘The Walking Dead’ Movie in the Works

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The Walking Dead will never die. Not if AMC has anything to say about it, at least. The network has a 10-year plan to pump out several Walking Dead movies that would then be spun-off into new TV shows. In short, not even a headshot can put down this zombie franchise.

As it enters its 9th season, The Walking Dead shows no signs of slowing down. AMC knows a good thing when they see one, and they’re prepared to keep The Walking Dead alive and kicking for as long as possible. A new story at Bloomberg lays out AMC’s ambitious, possibly crazy, plan to continue The Walking Dead in some shape or form for the next 10 years, and possibly longer. While specifics haven’t been ironed out yet, AMC is likely planning “several movies for a TV network or streaming service that could spin off into different series.” They also want to take the show international, setting at least one potential spin-off series in another country.

Scott Gimple, who produced several seasons of The Walking Dead, is leading the development of different shows. As of now, AMC is weighing a choice between producing every Walking Dead-related property themselves, or possibly bringing in an outside party – like a streaming service – “that can provide money and global exposure.” The plan is to air all new shows on AMC while also bolstering their own streaming service, AMC Premiere.

“Ownership of that content – call it Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead – allows us to determine the fate of that content, so we can navigate as we choose,” said Chief Executive Officer Josh Sapan. All of this news comes on the heels of the fact that viewership for The Walking Dead is declining. As the Bloomberg piece points out, “After peaking at 19 million nightly viewers in 2015, the audience for The Walking Dead declined to an average of 11 million in the most recent season.”

Some might take this as a sign that interest in The Walking Dead is dwindling, and planning a slew of movies and spin-offs might be a bad idea. But AMC is committed to making this work. The way they see it, interest in the main show – The Walking Dead – may be declining, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be renewed interest for new shows. AMC wants Walking Dead to be their Star Wars or Star Trek – a property that will seemingly never end.

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Disney CEO Bob Iger: “I Take The Blame” For Too Many Star Wars Films, Too Soon

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With Solo: A Star Wars Story cruising towards its home release next week, Disney CEO Bob Iger has finally opened up about the film’s less-than-stellar box office performance, which saw the feature garner just $392 million worldwide.

Now, those aren’t poor numbers by any stretch of the imagination – most indies would kill for just 1% of that – but they’re not even mid-tier Marvel takings (Ant-Man grossed over $500 million, and I defy you to find one person to whom Ant-Man is their favourite film). Furthermore,  compared to other recent efforts from the galaxy far, far away (The Force Awakens – $2bn; Rogue One – $1.05bn; The Last Jedi – $1.3bn), well, they’re not quite in the same league.

When Solo hit to a meek audience reception it seemed that every critic, pundit and even rival studio head had a theory as to why – was it too soon after The Last Jedi (which had released just five months prior)? Was it down to the recasting of one of the most iconic roles in cinema? Was it due to the negative fan backlash from a small vocal minority of Star Wars fans following Rian Johnson’s creative decisions? Was it the one-two punch of Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War financially-draining audiences in the weeks running up to Solo’s release? Or was it simply bad luck?

Well, despite not mentioning Solo by name, Bob Iger seems to think it was simply a case of Star Wars fatigue – overloading audiences with too many adventures too soon. Considering the usual 3-year gap between instalments, the one-a-year schedule Disney has been adhering to since 2015 does seem a tad much. But here’s what Iger said during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

“I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made – I take the blame – was a little too much, too fast. You can expect some slowdown, but that doesn’t mean we’re not gonna make films.”

As it stands, the only other Star Wars movie officially slated for release is 2019’s Episode IX, which will reportedly close out the so-called Skywalker Saga that began all the way back in 1977. As for what comes next? According to Bob: “We are just at the point where we’re gonna start making decisions about what comes next … But I think we’re gonna be a little more careful about volume and timing. And the buck stops here on that.”

There’s an 18-month gap between the theatrical releases of Solo and Episode IX, and Bob Iger (with Disney) is clearly hoping that will be enough of a breather to allow audience anticipation to build back up for director JJ Abrams’ closing chapter.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is due for release on DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K this Monday the 24th of September, rated 12A.

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