×

Primates getting pricier

U, Jackson betting big on three-hour 'Kong'

It’s no secret that Universal’s biggest bet of the year is “King Kong,” but less than two months before its Dec. 14 release, the studio has doubled down, agreeing to release Peter Jackson’s three-hour cut, which will push the budget to $207 million.

The budget on the great ape epic went up primarily because of the additional FX work needed. Jackson and U had originally contemplated a running time of around two and half hours, with a budget around $175 million.

Jackson’s original $20 million deal for “Kong” — which covered helming as well as writing and producing with wife Fran Walsh — included a penalty if he brought it in over budget.

U and Jackson’s camp have been in recent days negotiating how to pay for the overages. The result: Jackson will pay for the bulk of the additional $32 million needed to bring in the super-sized “Kong.”

However, just the fact that “Kong” carries a $207 million price tag — despite Jackson’s own Weta Digital FX shop doing all of the FX work and the production receiving subsidies from New Zealand — dramatically illustrates the escalating costs for Hollywood’s biggest spectacles.

Decision to increase the running time and budget was made after Universal brass — including Ron Meyer, Stacey Snider, Marc Shmuger and Mary Parent — flew to New Zealand to screen the pic.

The U delegation knew they were going to see a three-hour version, but hadn’t made any decisions on whether to release it.

“We expected to see a long movie,” said U chair Stacey Snider, “and we loved it. It’s a brilliant movie, an epic feast.”

Jackson’s manager Ken Kamins said, “After they told Peter they were happy to release and support a three hour movie, there have been negotiations to alter the deal to accommodate the adjustments.”

Both sides described the discussions as amicable. Kamins said, “Peter and Fran love the film so much they’re paying for it.”

Studios normally seek to avoid longer runtimes since it limits the number of showings when a pic is released in theaters. However, some of the biggest grossing pics have had three hour run times, including all of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The final installment, “The Return of the King,” clocked in at three hours and 20 minutes.

And of course, the all-time biggest grossing film “Titanic” reached $600.8 million despite running three hours and four minutes.

Still, by opting for a three-hour runtime, Jackson will nearly double the 1933 original “Kong’s” one hour and 40 minute length.

More Film

  • Themba-Bhebhe

    Durban FilmMart’s Themba Bhebhe on Diversity: ‘We Are At a Crossroads’

    DURBAN–A new thematic strand at this year’s Durban FilmMart, Engage @ DFM, offers a series of think tanks and in-depth discussions concerning diversity and de-colonial approaches to and models for filmmaking. To head up the new initiative, the DFM tapped guest curator Themba Bhebhe, who has led the Diversity & Inclusion initiative at the last two editions of [...]

  • Durban Film Festival 2019 / Copyright

    South African Creatives Grapple Over Copyright Amendment Bill

    DURBAN–The South African government is planning to update its four-decade-old copyright legislation, but what that means for filmmakers was up for debate during a contentious and often heated session at the Durban FilmMart this week. While the Copyright Amendment Bill awaits the signature of President Cyril Ramaphosa, industry stakeholders remain divided over how the proposed [...]

  • 'The Lion King' Ruling Box Office

    'The Lion King' Ruling Box Office With Dazzling Debut at $180 Million

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has jolted the North American box office back to life with an opening weekend in the $180 million range, estimates showed Saturday. “The Lion King” will record the second-best opening of 2019 — and could replace “Incredibles 2,” which launched last year with $182.7 million, as the ninth biggest North American [...]

  • 'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in

    'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in Hospital After Stabbing

    Hugely popular Hong Kong actor, Simon Yam was stabbed while on stage Saturday at a presentation in Zhongshan, Guangdong province in southern China. He is in hospital recovering. The incident happened at the opening of a branch of the Beijing Easyhome building materials company, where Yam was a guest. A man was seen rushing on [...]

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolosnaro attends the

    Bolsonaro Threatens Brazil’s Central Film Fund with Censorship or Closure

    In typical shoot-from-the-hip remarks, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has declared that Ancine, Brazil’s powerful state-backed federal film agency, should accept “filters”or face closure. “If it can’t have a filter, we’ll close Ancine, or privatize it,” Bolsonaro added, attacking Ancine, which plows some $300 million a year into Brazil’s film and TV industries, for supporting [...]

  • TSOM-MASK

    Director Sara Gouveia on ‘Looking At Resilience Through Art’

    DURBAN–The Mapiko dance of Mozambique’s indigenous Makonde people was long used as a tool for social commentary. But during the colonial era it became an act of political resistance, prompting the Portuguese to stamp it out during Mozambique’s 10-year war for independence. Decades later, the art has been revived as a celebration of freedom. For [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content