Alcon Entertainment isn’t playing it safe any more.
The 15-year-old production-financing banner – known for such middle-of-the road fare as “The Blind Side,” “P.S. I Love You” and “Dolphin Tale” – has veered away from the safety zone with Friday premiere “Prisoners” and has high-profile sequels to “Blade Runner” and “Point Break” in development.
Telluride reviews were strong for “Prisoners,” a thriller about the abduction of two girls that Alcon’s Kosove says is its most complex film to date.
On Wednesday, Alcon and “Prisoners” director Denis Villeneuve announced a two-year deal covering his directing and writing services with a “blind script” commitment for another project, to be determined.
“Denis is Canadian so were hoping to get into Toronto and we looked at the path that ‘Argo’ took as being a good way to go,” said Alcon co-topper Broderick Johnson.
Johnson credits producer Kira Davis and Alcon exec Carl Rogers with suggesting Quebec’s Villeneuve after seeing his powerful “Incendies.”
“What he does is clearly articulate the emotional journey of the characters like the characters in ‘Heat,’ ” Johnson recalled. Alcon co-topper Andrew Kosove said the movie needed a director who could capture the humanity of the characters.
“It’s a very grounded movie — you never feel like you’re in Movieland,” he added. “It raises very complex philosophical questions. You never see the children taken. It’s centered on how the adults react.”
Kosove said when the film was screened for focus groups in Chicago and Phoenix, there were “vibrant” debates about it.
Johnson said, “You’re asking who did it, where are the clues but later on you are asking ‘would I have done that in that situation?’ ”
“Blade Runner” is awaiting a greenlight on a sequel, after Alcon announced in May that Michael Green had come on board to rewrite the script from Hampton Fancher, who wrote the screenplay for Ridley Scott’s 1982 original. In August 2011, Scott committed to direct.
Fancher’s original story/screenplay is set several years after the first film concluded in a dystopian version of Los Angeles.
Kosove and Johnson said they will decide by the end of the year whether to go ahead on another “Blade Runner.”
“We will see if Michael Green can take it to the next level,” Johnson said. “What we’ve seen of his script really does feel like ‘Blade Runner.’”
Alcon is also showing its expanded reach by producing Wally Pfister’s sci-fier “Transcendence” in which three scientists have been developing a programming code for the world’s first fully self-aware computer.
It’s also planning to start shooting a “Point Break” sequel sometime next year, expanding the world of the 1991 original from surfing into extreme sports.