×

Brave new ‘World’

Vidgame fires up pic at WB

“World of Warcraft” is heading to the world of film.

Warners-based Legendary Pictures has picked up film rights to adapt the hugely popular fantasy videogame franchise and will develop the project with game publisher Blizzard Entertainment, which is owned by Vivendi.

While the “Warcraft” franchise has been around for more than a decade, the most recent iteration, the megahit online title “World of Warcraft,” has transformed the vidgame industry.

Unlike most games, where players pay $50 once and play until they’re done, more than 6 million people around the world pay $14.99 per month to participate in the multiplayer “World of Warcraft” online. Within the game they not only team on quests, but often interact and form deep social relationships.

Financial details weren’t available, but the deal is surely a lucrative one. In the only other vidgame license of comparable value, Universal and Fox paid Microsoft $5 million against 10% of the gross for the rights to “Halo.”

Deal is sure to be the talk of the E3 videogame confab going on this week in downtown L.A.

In addition to co-financing a number of WB pics, Legendary has insisted since its inception last year that it would be developing certain projects that Warners would in turn likely co-produce and distribute.

Legendary put up half the money for Warners’ “Batman Begins” and the upcoming “Superman Returns.”

“The ‘Warcraft’ universe is possessed of such a rich mythology and, as such, serves as an ideal platform as we go about translating that universe into what we intend to be a major event film,” Legendary chair-CEO Thomas Tull said.

Blizzard Entertainment chief operating officer Paul Sams said the company “searched for a very long time for the right studio” to develop a movie based on the game. Blizzard considered hiring a scribe to adapt the game for the bigscreen, as Microsoft did with “Halo,” but ultimately decided to work with a partner.

“I’ve been with the company for 12 years. For half that time, we’ve been considering whether and how to adapt ‘Warcraft’ into a movie,” Sams said. “We immediately connected with the folks at Legendary, and we wouldn’t have gone with them if we weren’t confident this movie would get made.”

The only other videogames that rival “World of Warcraft” are the “Grand Theft Auto” and “Halo” franchises.

U and Fox are revising a script for Microsoft’s “Halo” with hopes to release the movie in the summer of 2007, though they may have to push back that date since the movie doesn’t even have a director yet.

“World of Warcraft” players are extremely passionate, even by vidgamer standards. While they provide Legendary with a core fan base that likely will turn out opening weekend, they’ll be on the lookout for any perceived slights in the development and production process.

Blizzard VP of creative development Chris Metzen is expected to be closely involved in development of the film.

Legendary chief creative exec Jon Jashni said that vidgames don’t always lend themselves to a film adaptation, but that “Warcraft” is not among those.

“We are intending to approach this as we would the adaptation of a bestselling novel: Respect the essence of all that it is, but also build upon that fertile base while translating it into a new medium,” Jashni said.

“Warcraft” has a richly developed fantasy mythology in its games and spinoff books, but it’s not clear yet which elements Blizzard and Legendary will use for the film.

More Film

  • SAG Awards Placeholder

    SAG Awards Unveils Presenters After Accusing Academy of 'Intimidation'

    The SAG Awards has unveiled its first round of presenters, including Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Rami Malek, Chadwick Boseman, Adam Driver, Sam Elliott, and Constance Wu. Wednesday’s announcement comes two weeks after SAG-AFTRA accused the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of intimidation in trying to limit actors from presenting on awards shows other [...]

  • Kevin Hart Fatherhood

    Kevin Hart Partnering With STX on Two Comedies (EXCLUSIVE)

    Kevin Hart is partnering with STXfilms to produce on a pair of comedy movies through his HartBeat Productions with an eye to star in both projects, Variety has learned exclusively. The announcement comes on the heels of Hart’s solid box office performance in “The Upside,” in which he co-stars with Bryan Cranston. STX’s comedic drama, co-produced [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Disruptor Netflix Joins Big Studios at the Table With MPAA Membership, Analysts Say

    Netflix is starting to look a lot like the media institutions it has been disrupting for years. In one fell swoop on Tuesday, the streaming giant racked up an impressive 15 Academy Award nominations, including a best picture nod for Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white, Spanish-language drama “Roma.” Hours later came official word that the company had [...]

  • Italy's Notorious Pictures Expands Into Exhibition,

    Italy's Notorious Pictures Expands Into Exhibition, Plans 200 Screens by 2023

    Italian distribution and production company Notorious Pictures is branching out into exhibition, aiming to have 20 multiplexes up and running within the next five years. The company has appointed former UCI Italy chief Andrea Stratta to head up a new Notorious Cinemas unit. The company said it was already in the process of taking out a [...]

  • cats logo

    As 'Cats' Starts Production, Downtown Lands Admin Deal for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music (EXCLUSIVE)

    Downtown Music Publishing has entered into a multi-year publishing administration deal with Faber Music, which represents the musical repertoire from “Cats,” the beloved and long-running Broadway sensation currently being turned into a feature film starring Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Idris Elba and Judi Dench, among others. The Universal picture, directed by Tom Hooper, recently [...]

  • Nicholas Cage. Actor Nicolas Cage poses

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Horror Movie 'Color Out of Space'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the horror movie “Color out of Space” for Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision. Principal photography will begin next month with South African filmmaker Richard Stanley directing his first feature in more than 20 years. Stanley co-wrote the script with Scarlett Amaris. The project, based on the novella by H.P. Lovecraft, will reunite Cage [...]

  • 'How to Train Your Dragon: The

    'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' to Bow in China on March 1

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” will swoop into Chinese theaters on March 1, its Beijing-based promotion company He Song confirmed to Variety on Wednesday. The date puts its China release a week after its Feb. 22 debut in the U.S. and also pits it against “Green Book,” which has scored a China release [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content