×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

WWE Film Slate Shows a Softer Side

WWE reaches beyond its core aud with Halle Berry, Scooby-Doo and holiday-themed fare

The WWE has struggled trying to pin down a successful film business for many years.

(From the pages of the April 9 issue of Variety.)

A slate of horror and action films, featuring the brawny personas of John Cena, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Ted DiBiase Jr. and Kane have performed well on homevideo but weren’t runaway hits. A recent slate of Hallmark-style dramas and cheesy comedies flopped.

Two years after overhauling WWE Studios — expanding genres and casting beyond what you’d expect, while blending brands with Scooby-Doo and a reboot of the “Leprechaun” horror franchise — former Miramax exec Michael Luisi is seeing his first slate embraced by audiences.

SEE ALSO: WWE’s Promo Mania

The thriller “The Call,” released by TriStar Pictures, has earned $45.5 million since March 15. “Dead Man Down,” distributed by FilmDistrict, has earned around $11 million since March 8 — not bad for another low-budget thriller — while direct-to-vid releases “The Marine: Homefront” and horror thriller “The Day” have sold well in recent weeks.

Wrestlers are still featured, but in smaller parts, paired alongside more notable names like Halle Berry, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard and Luke Evans. Instead of footing the bill, WWE also is reducing its risks by co-financing films with partners like Pathe Films, Troika Pictures, IM Global, 20th Century Fox and Anchor Bay. Others are pickups from the Cannes, Sundance and Toronto film festivals.

The division, WWE Studios, generated $7.9 million in 2012, compared with $20.9 million in 2011, although the success of “The Call,” budgeted at less than $13 million, could best both those years single-handedly (WWE funded half the budget). The aim is to release six to eight films a year, with many of the pics expected to get a theatrical run.

SEE ALSO: WWE Models TV Network Plan After NFL’s Approach

“We start out on these projects with the mindset that there’s no reason these couldn’t get a wide theatrical release if they turn out the way we hope they do,” Luisi maintained.

In addition to “Leprechaun,” starring WWE wrestler Hornswoggle and set up at Lionsgate, WWE has a stake in thriller “No One Lives,” with Evans and grappler Brodus Clay, a Toronto pickup that Anchor Bay will distribute as a limited release May 10; the direct-to-homevid sequel “12 Rounds: Reload” (Randy Orton); and the Scooby-Doo pic, “The Curse of the Ghost Bear!” from Warner Bros.Animation, in which WWE’s wrestlers and chairman Vince McMahon team with the Great Dane’s gang to solve a mystery at WrestleMania.

The WWE also will co-produce the TV movie “Christmas Bounty,” with ABC Family, to air during its “25 Days of Christmas” programming block this winter. It’s eyed as an opportunity to connect with ABC Family’s core female viewer. That’s the same plan for “The Call,” with Berry helping attract more women to WWE, whose audience tends to be 60% male.

More Biz

  • Streaming Placeholder

    TikTok Owner Preparing Streaming Service to Rival Spotify (Report)

    ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of the TikTok video app, is developing a paid streaming music service aimed at the same emerging markets that Spotify and Apple are seeking to explore, according to a report in Bloomberg. The app could be introduced as early as autumn, according to the report, which adds that the company has [...]

  • Stranger Things

    Coca-Cola Will Revive New Coke in Alliance With Netflix, 'Stranger Things'

    A rush of TV watchers to streaming video has prompted Coca-Cola to test an interesting pour. Coca-Cola will bring New Coke back to market for a brief time, all part of a partnership with Netflix, which has featured Coke in its cult-favorite series “Stranger Things.” The third season of the series, set in 1985, will [...]

  • Doug Davis and Jodie ShihadehVariety Power

    Jodie Shihadeh Named Partner at The Davis Firm

    Jodie Shihadeh has been named Partner at The Davis Firm, PLLC. She joined the firm in 2011 and rose from associate to Managing Attorney and now partner. She graduated from Boston College and received her law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 2011. While still in law school she interned in the Business [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Nickelodeon Alum Keith Dawkins Sets Kidvid Partnership With Believe Entertainment Group

    Former Nickelodeon executive Keith Dawkins has partnered with Believe Entertainment Group to develop children’s programming. Dawkins will partner with Believe under his newly formed Rock Hill Media Ventures, which aims to advise companies in media, entertainment and sports on working with diverse and emerging talent. Dawkins previously spent 17 years at Viacom, most of which [...]

  • CBS Studios Exterior

    CBS Credit Union Manager Pleads Guilty to $40 Million Fraud

    The manager of a credit union for CBS employees pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court on Monday to a $40 million embezzlement scheme. Edward Rostohar, 62, was arrested in March after the scheme began to unravel. According to prosecutors, he admitted to stealing money from the bank for the last 20 years. Rostohar is [...]

  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The

    CAA's Packaging Fee Becomes Flashpoint in 'Walking Dead' Litigation

    The issue that is at the heart of the WGA’s present standoff with talent agencies has flared up as a source of tension in the litigation between AMC Networks and Frank Darabont and CAA over profit participation on “The Walking Dead.” The practice of talent agencies receiving packaging fees for helping to assemble the creative [...]

  • Sony Music to Deliver ‘Real Time’

    Sony Music to Deliver ‘Real Time’ Data, Royalty Payments to Artists

    Sony Music today announced two new payment features for its artists — “Real Time Royalties” and “Cash Out” — through its artist portal beginning this fall. 

A memo sent to artists Monday morning and obtained by Variety says  the initiatives will “allow our artists and royalty participants to view and withdraw earnings faster than ever [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content