“Ouija” is reaching out from the beyond — Universal has pulled the pic from turnaround by slashing the budget and attaching “Paranormal Activity” shingle Blumhouse to help produce the cut-price version.
Now set for a 2013 release, the project that started out as a mega-budget chiller under Universal’s deal with toymaker Hasbro has been scaled down to a budget of around $5 million. Platinum Dunes’ Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller remain onboard, with Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir producing for Hasbro.
New version adds the shoestring-budget expertise of Jason Blum, whose Blumhouse banner — now with a first-look deal at Universal — hit it big with micro-budgeted “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious.” Plot is being kept under wraps but would revolve around the board game that ostensibly lets players communicate with the spirit world. McG had been lined up to direct before production was halted, but he’s no longer involved. A new helmer has yet to be set.
Talks were held with other major studios when U put “Ouija” into turnaround last year, but it was never picked up. Its revival is a glimmer of hope for the relationship between Universal and Hasbro that started as a multiyear pact envisioned as a vehicle for several tentpoles — “Stretch Armstrong,” “Candy Land,” “Clue” — but has produced only “Battleship.” “Armstrong” is now at Relativity, Sony has set up a “Candy Land” project with Adam Sandler, and plans for “Clue” and “Monopoly” fell by the wayside, rendering the original Hasbro/Universal deal moot.
So the “Ouija” resurrection is not considered a rekindling of the Hasbro/Universal agreement.
It is, however, a sign of the growing partnership between Platinum Dunes and Blumhouse, already in production on the low-budget thriller “Vigilandia” for Universal. U has had a good experience doing low-budget pics with Blumhouse; “Vigilandia” is about to wrap, and “Not Safe for Work” just got under way.