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Universal’s International Chief Duncan Clark on Bond, Grinch, Dolittle, Pokemon

Following the stellar overseas opening for “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” Universal’s international chief Duncan Clark is confident about an upcoming release slate that includes Bond 25, “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch,” “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle,” Pokemon movie “Detective Pikachu,” and potential awards contenders like “First Man.”

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” opened recently in international markets with a monster opening weekend of $150 million. Its release shortly before the start of the FIFA World Cup could have raised eyebrows, but Clark, president of distribution at Universal Pictures Intl., is confident that the movie will continue to thrive, despite the competition from soccer.

“In many parts of the world the timeline of the World Cup will not really interfere with [the film’s performance, such as] in Asia and Latin America,” he says. “In the first two weeks of the World Cup, there is less drama and less potent matches because they are in group matches. On days when the countries play, yes, we’ll take a dent [in those territories], but then [the team] won’t play for four days…

“The Olympics in London didn’t harm business, or in Rio, and business went up during the last World Cup. I’m never really that nervous to go into that environment. Each market doesn’t just have football fans, and it is a four-quadrant movie. We are very confident about it.”

As for the recent addition to Universal’s international slate of EON/MGM’s Bond 25, which Danny Boyle will direct, Clark says: “This is one of the classic franchises of all time. Any studio would want to have it on their slate. Personally, I am a James Bond fan. It is an iconic brand.”

A small number of other MGM titles also will be distributed by Universal in international territories, including “Operation Finale,” about the capture of Adolf Eichmann, and “The Hustle,” a remake of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” The exact number of MGM titles that Universal will distribute “has yet to be determined,” Clark says. “It is an opportunity for us to work on a relatively small lineup of MGM titles, but we don’t know the full extent of it yet.”

Chris Meledandri’s Illumination is delivering “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch.” “Chris Meledandri has brilliantly engineered a brand that has had such penetrative success around the world that now he has taken on this great classic story. I felt [the film] really popped in the room: the colors, the visuals, the casting,” Clark says. “The Illumination brand has now had these gigantic successes with ‘Minions,’ the three ‘Despicable Me’ movies, ‘The Secret Life of Pets,’ ‘Sing.’ ‘Grinch’ fits very snugly in there. It looks quite brilliant.”

A potential award contender on the slate is Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy in a story about the journey to the moon told through the eyes of astronaut Neil Armstrong. It releases in October. “That is going to be one of our strongest titles of the year, no question,” Clark says. “We have seen a rough-cut version of it. It is a standout movie from this incredible young director….I’ve had a lot of conversations with exhibitors about this title, and they were all very excited by the trailer they saw this week.”

Other Universal films that could feature in the fall festival and awards season are “Boy Erased,” starring Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, and “Operation Finale,” which stars Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac.

“The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle,” starring Robert Downey, Jr., has the potential to become a future franchise. “Whenever you are in that world of creating an IP from the get-go, you always want it to be a brand,” Clark says. “[Downey] is an iconic brand unto himself, and Dolittle is one of the most famous characters in literature. We have only seen short sequences, but from what I’ve seen it looks brilliant. [Downey] nails this character.”

Another title likely to be the start of a franchise for Universal is Legendary’s live-action Pokemon movie, “Detective Pikachu,” starring Ryan Reynolds. “Pokemon movies have been around for 20 years, and they are a massive brand around the world. This is the first time an American company has gone into that world,” Clark says. “We are a partner with Legendary on this, and it feels as if it’s got enormous potential because of the saturated awareness that the Pokemon brand has.”

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