As we predicted last month, Fox has stepped up to take the reins of the Narnia franchise steered into a costly anthropomorphic wall by Disney. Here's the scoop from Variety (including what they got wrong):
The two sides are still working out budget and script issues, but the hope is to shoot the film at the end of summer for a holiday 2010 release through the Fox Walden label...The Century City studio seems to be an ideal fit for the "Narnia" books given that it's been looking for a family-friendly, lit-based franchise for years — Fox 2000's "Eragon" failed to catch on with audiences and died after one installment.
Fox and Walden will split production and P&A costs for "Dawn Treader," which is projected to go into production at a $140 million budget. That's considerably less than the $215 million or so spent on last year's "Prince Caspian," which was considered something of a box office disappointment as compared with the first "Narnia" pic, 2005's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" ($419 million vs. $745 million worldwide, respectively).
Still, "Caspian," which is considered the least commercially appealing of the seven C.S. Lewis "Narnia" novels, ranked No. 10 in global box office performance last year.
OK, first of all: Caspian is the "least commercially appealing of the seven novels"? Apparently Variety is all too willing to gobble the Fox line, as there are way more expendable novels coming up (A Horse and His Boy, anyone?) and Caspian had the virtue of reuniting the first film's four child stars, something no other installment does.
Also, citing Fox's misfire with Eragon is a bit disingenuous, as that trifle actually performed decently: almost $250 million worldwide on a $100 million budget for a glorified Sci-Fi channel TV-movie. Variety should have instead chosen to highlight Fox's most recent massacre, the botch job it did to the Dark is Rising franchise. Americanized and retitled The Seeker, the 2007 kickoff installment grossed a stunningly low $31 million. Yes, that includes worldwide. Citing that project, though, would have shone a spotlight on Fox's fanboy-infuriating development practices.
(Still, there's at least one silver lining: Variety says that Eustace in Treader will be played by Will Poulter of the delightful, child-friendly Son of Rambow. Anything that might bring more eyes to this underappreciated modern classic, the better.)