Veteran movie producer Stacey Sher has been named co-president of Activision Blizzard Studios, the upstart production unit that intends to build TV shows and movies out of intellectual property from one of the world’s biggest gaming companies.
Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick announced the hiring of Sher, the producer behind such acclaimed films as “Erin Brockovich,” “Matilda,” and a trio of Quentin Tarantino movies, “Pulp Fiction,” “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight.”
She will head the gaming giant’s studio along with Nick van Dyk, her co-president and an executive at Disney prior to joining Activision Blizzard.
The studio has already created an animated series based on the “Skylander Academy” video game property. The show, expected to be ready for release this year, includes voice performances by Justin Long, Ashley Tisdale, Jonathan Banks and Norm Macdonald. Sher and van Dyk said that they are looking to turn the hugely-popular “Call of Duty” franchise into a movie, or even a series of films.
The company previously licensed its hugely-popular “World of Warcraft” game to Legendary Pictures for a movie, but the film has been delayed amid rumors of a troubled production. The new Activision Blizzard unit has no involvement in “Warcraft,” which is now scheduled for release June 10.
The new studio was announced in November, along with the appointment of van Dyk, who for nine previous years had been the company’s senior VP of corporate strategy. Kotick, on adding co-president Sher, praised her “unyielding commitment to creativity.” The CEO said the company’s expansion into film and TV would aid Activision Blizzard in “thoughtfully and creatively expanding our franchises through television and films in a way that will honor the commitment our audiences make to our games.”
Though she is associated with an eclectic array of non-gaming films, Sher said she knows some of the Activision Blizzard properties, thanks to her 14-year-old son. She said the company’s strong catalog of IP — with 1,000 titles dating back 30-plus years — gives it a starting point for storytelling that is coveted by many other film- and TV-makers.
Sher said the company will move deliberately to make a few good productions, not to churn out dozens of mediocre ones. “It’s about making sure you do not have the pressure to just get something out there because you are backing into a release date,” she said. She said the company’s challenge is to “create filmed entertainment based on Activision Blizzard games that is as great as the games themselves.”
Van Dyk called the company’s model “unique,” saying it had not only enviable IP but a leaner organization than other production companies. “Our focused and disciplined strategy will drive tremendous franchise value for Activision Blizzard as we bring audiences new ways to engage with the intellectual property they love,” van Dyk said in a statement.
Sher said the films and TV shows will support the games and vice versa, “extending the franchises to a broader audience.” Van Dyk said the opportunity to inspire gamers to see films and TV shows, and to get film and TV audiences to start gaming, “creates a virtuous cycle.” A number of distributors and production partners have been clamoring to form alliances with the new studio, the co-presidents said.
The studio will be housed at Activision Blizzard’s Santa Monica headquarters. Kotick previously said he envisioned the unit scaling up to about 40 staffers in the near future.
Among other game titles controlled by Activision Blizzard are Diablo, StarCraft, Candy Crush and Guitar Hero.