Fox, U will bow Microsoft adaptation in '07

Master Chief is gunning for the bigscreen in summer ’07.

Fox and Universal have closed their deal to make a movie based on Microsoft’s hit vidgame “Halo,” with plans for a tentpole in two years. Studios will pay the tech giant $5 million against 10% of the gross.

Universal will oversee the production and is handling domestic distribution, while Fox will take foreign distrib. Studios will split revenues 50/50 out of a shared pot.

Former Columbia prexy Peter Schlessel, who served as a Hollywood liaison for Microsoft, is producing. “28 Days Later” scribe Alex Garland was paid $1 million by Microsoft to pen a script that met its approval (Daily Variety, Feb. 4). He’ll now do a rewrite with studio notes, after which U will go out to directors.

” ‘Halo’ is one of those rare properties where you have a rich world from which to draw as well as a recognized brand, which in today’s times is a benefit to anyone developing and producing films,” Universal production prexy Donna Langley said.

When Microsoft first hit studios with the script in June, delivered by messengers dressed as Master Chief, it had a long list of deal points, including $10 million against 15% of the gross, extensive creative control and quick progress to production (Daily Variety, June 7).

It was the details of Microsoft’s involvement that took several months to finalize, since financials were largely worked out by mid-June (Daily Variety, June 10).

Tech giant is now guaranteed extensive consultation on the project, but won’t have approval over any elements. Several employees at Bungie, the Microsoft-owned development studio that created “Halo,” will serve as Microsoft’s creative consultants.

“Our conversations in the last few weeks focused on the level of collaboration needed to bring this complex property to life,” said Peter Moore, marketing and publishing VP for Microsoft’s Xbox vidgame unit. “Ultimately, Universal is the expert responsible for making a powerfully commercial movie palatable to our demo.”

Future vidgame iterations of “Halo,” which has already generated more than $600 million in sales for its first two versions, are almost certain. If possible, Microsoft and U will synchronize a game and movie release to take advantage of cross-marketing.

But either way, Microsoft is expected to use its prodigious marketing reach to help promote the pic, giving U and Fox an extra boost at the B.O. and even higher expectations to meet among the rabid gamer aud.

(Claude Brodesser contributed to this report.)

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