With WWE Studios finding its footing with hits like the Halle Berry thriller “The Call” and made-for-TV movies like ABC Family’s “Christmas Bounty,” WWE has no plans to leave Hollywood.
After co-producing films with 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate before moving to self-finance a slate it self-distributed through the Samuel Goldwyn Co., in 2010, WWE Studios has now settled into a new business model that has it mitigate the risk of making movies by partnering with notable producers and distributors. Film banner is run by former Miramax exec Michael Luisi.
“We have a new business model,” said WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon during an earnings call Thursday to discuss the company’s fourth quarter and 2013 results. “It’s our third model. This one is working.”
The release of five films and “Christmas Bounty” in 2013 boosted WWE Studios’ revenue to $10.8 million, compared to $7.9 million in 2012. Pics released during the period included the theatrical releases “The Call,” “No One Lives,” “Dead Man Down” and direct-to-DVD titles “12 Rounds 2: Reloaded,” “The Marine 3: Homefront.” “The Call,” released by Sony’s TriStar banner in March 2013, is WWE Studios’ biggest hit to date, earning $69 million worldwide.
Low performing films released during 2010 to 2012, as well as “Dead Man Down” that bowed in early 2013, are still dragging down results, however, forcing WWE Studios to report a $12.7 million loss due to $11.7 million in impairment charges.
Still the studio arm generated sales of $5 million during the fourth quarter, up from $600,000 during the same year-ago frame, with earnings coming mostly from “Christmas Bounty.”
WWE Studios will next produce a big screen adaptation of the TV show “The Fall Guy” set to star Dwayne Johnson, together with Hyde Park Entertainment. It also has signed on to co-produce the Aaron Eckhart horror thriller “Incarnate,” with Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Prods. Universal will distribute the film.
Through Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, WWE Studios is co-producing the sequels “Jingle All the Way 2,” starring Larry the Cable Guy, and a fourth installment of “The Marine” together with
This year, WWE Studios is also behind “Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery,” out on homevideo from Warner Bros. on March 25, followed by “Leprechaun: Origins,” starring WWE’s Hornswoggle, which Lionsgate will release in August. The Soska Sisters’ “See No Evil 2″ will also be released by Lionsgate in October.
And in April, WWE Studios, Relativity and Blumhouse Prods will release Intrepid Pictures’ supernatural horror film “Oculus,” directed by Mike Flanagan, that debuted at the Midnight Madness section of the 2013 Toronto Intl Film Festival.
During the earnings call, McMahon dismissed the notion that WWE doesn’t belong in the film business. “We’re a content company,” he said. “We understand storylines. It’s another opportunity for our stars to appear (in other content). Going forward, we believe it will be a considerable contributor to the bottom line,” with WWE’s chief financial officer George Barrios adding that the films also serve as a valuable marketing tool for the company to gets its brand and stars in front of new audiences.
“As you expose the brand to broader audiences, we feel that has value,” Barrios said. “We want to make money, but it has a second effect, as well.”