Looks like a lot of kids — OK, their parents — are snapping up the toys and games represented on shows such as Transformers Prime, Clue, and My Little Pony that they see on The Hub. Hasbro COO David D. R. Hargreaves says these sales are soaring even though initial ratings following the channel’s October 2010 launch were at “the lower end of our expectations.” His comments were part of Hasbro’s day-long presentation to investors — including several who were skeptical about its $300M investment in April 2009 for 50% of Discovery Kids. Hargreaves says that last month’s ratings among kids between 2 and 11 were the best yet for The Hub, although he warned that the numbers “probably won’t grow each week, month, or quarter.” Cable and satellite company efforts to promote the channel “spike viewership which may fall back in the following period.” Still, the exec says Hasbro’s on track with its five-year business plan. ”If The Hub network can be half the size of Cartoon Network” in five years then “that would be a success,” he says. Hasbro’s investment enabled the company to turn Hasbro Studios into a major TV production operation. It accounts for 50% of the Hub’s programming from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM, as well as sales in 142 countries. Hasbro says it only expects to have to spend about $80M a year on channel-related expenses, lower than the $100M it anticipated. The company’s agreement with Discovery requires it to spend …
Universal has dropped another board-game film adaptation from its groundbreaking six-year exclusive pact with Hasbro, sending Ouija into turnaround to join previous projects Clue, Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering. The Ouija film — which has McG attached to direct and Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form producing with Ian Bryce and Hasbro’s Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir — will most likely be set up elsewhere, as will Clue, which is funded by Hasbro and is being produced by director Gore Verbinski’s Blind Wink shingle (see Universal Drops ‘Clue’; Gore Verbinksi Moves Forward With Hasbro Cash And New Writers). For Universal, the move is purely economics: Ouija is budgeted at north of $100 million and the studio has Oblivion, R.I.P.D., 47 Ronin, Safe House and Battleship — all big-ticket movies — already in its lineup. (Remember, it also said goodbye to the ambitious film/TV series hybrid The Dark Tower over cost concerns. Vulture is reporting that Universal was serious enough about the cost of Ouija that it is paying Hasbro a $5 million penalty for dropping it, as per terms of its 2008 mega deal with the toy giant.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has quietly dropped out of Clue, one of the seven Hasbro games properties the studio contracted to make into movies in a ground-breaking six-year exclusive deal signed in 2008. Clue becomes the third project out of seven to be dropped by Universal (Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering were also kicked to the curb), but none of those projects are dead. In the case of the murder mystery board game Clue, Hasbro is funding the development and producing the film with Gore Verbinski’s Blind Wink. Verbinski, director of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, Rango and the upcoming Lone Ranger, still plans to direct Clue, and he and Blind Wink’s John Krauss are producing with Hasbro’s Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir.
They’ve just hired Flash Gordon scribes Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama to write the Clue script. The writers will draft a take that Verbinski and his fellow producers came up with that retains the murder mystery spirit of the board game, but broadens the setting to a global stage. Beyond scripting Flash Gordon for Sony Pictures, Sharpless and Sazama are redrafting Dracula Year Zero. That project’s still hanging on at Universal, after being halted just short of the start line because of a high budget, when Alex Proyas was directing and Sam Worthington was going to star. ICM reps the writers.
Is all this a clue that Universal no longer wants to roll the dice on board game movies? Insiders say no. Rather, they tell me that Universal and Hasbro gradually narrowed their focus to the four films that most made sense for the studio: Battleship, the Peter Berg-directed summer 2012 action movie that stars Taylor Kitsch and Liam Neeson, with Universal just releasing its first trailer (below); Stretch Armstrong, which has Rob Letterman directing and Twilight Saga’s Taylor Lautner attached to play the rubbery title character; Candy Land, which is being written by Kung Fu Panda 2 co-writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, who’ve described the film as Lord of the Rings, with edibles; and Ouija, which has McG attached to direct and Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form producing with Ian Bryce and Hasbro’s Goldner and Schneir.