‘Dragon’ following ‘Mario’ to big screen

“Double Dragon,” the second Nintendo videogame this year to make the leap to the big screen, has double the original budget to show for it.

The actioner from Imperial Entertainment Corp., based on the vidgame “Double Dragon,” seeks a domestic distrib deal with one of the majors after a union shutdown and pricey special effects forced its budget from under $ 10 million to about $ 20 million.

“Dragon” stars “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” heavy Robert Patrick, newcomer Scott Wolf (seen on the CBS series “Evening Shade”) and Alyssa Milano from “Who’s the Boss?”

The pic is set in an earthquake-shaken Los Angeles, where gangs have taken over. A medallion with a double dragon insignia, granting the wearer control of the city, is coveted by both Patrick’s gangster minions, resistance fighter Milano and young hero Wolf.

Nintendo has had tremendous success with the “Dragon” vidgame, which features a series of streetfighters in post-apocalyptic urban settings.

But tailoring a film from a joystick game is an uphill struggle.

Buena Vista’s “Super Mario Bros.” stumbled earlier this summer when the high-concept synergy package failed to ignite the B.O. The studio reportedly paid Nintendo more than $ 1.5 million to use the game’s name, but the subterranean antics of Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo have grossed only $ 20 million to date, although it cost as much as $ 50 million.

“Double Dragon” started shooting in Cleveland as a non-union pic earlier this summer. But when the production returned to Burbank for additional scenes, an organized walkout of IATSE and other union members forced Imperial Entertainment toppers to the negotiating table. Shooting was halted for about a week, according to an IEC exec.

“We reached an impasse in our negotiations with them,” explained an IATSE spokesperson. “So there was a job action, nobody went to work, and we settled it.”

Reached at the Burbank set, Ash Shah, IEC exec production VP and “Dragon” producer, admitted that while the walkout was not the only reason for the skyrocketing budget. “Of course this kind of union action did have a financial impact on the movie,” Shah said. “But we became an IATSE show.”

Shah said he wants to open theF/X extravaganza domestically on 2,000 screens, something only a major could do. Insiders noted that only a studio deal could cover the pic’s swelling budget and still distribute with a profit.

Shah also confirmed that IEC’s parent company, the Danish vid and feature distribber Scanbox Danmark A/S, pumped more green into the pic as the budget effectively doubled in midshoot. Partners since 1981, the Danes bought IEC and its Dutch distrib arm Imperial Entertainment B.V. in 1987.

IEC is an L.A.-based vid distribber that also dabbles in action features. Most notably, it helped launch the mainstream career of Jean-Claude Van Damme with titles like “Black Eagle” and the successful “Lionheart,” which Universal distributed domestically to the tune of more than $ 26 million.

“Double Dragon” is helmed by musicvid director Jim Yukich and is produced by Alan Schechter, Don Murphy and Jane Hamsher. IEC prexy Sunil Shah exec produces the pic, which wraps in late August.

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