SBD/March 27, 2012/Media

WWE Looks To Reach Beyond Its Core Audience With Movie Projects

WWE Studios wants to "reach beyond its core audience," and to attract non-wrestling fans, the company is "moving more heavily into co-production, other partnerships and acquisitions," according to John Anderson of the N.Y. TIMES. Working with partners and a budget of $15-$25M, it is producing six to eight projects in '12 "for later release." Besides alliances with Open Road on "The Grey," and Anchor Bay, WWE Studios has announced a three-picture deal with Fox, which "will continue the 'Marine' action franchise, a WWE fan favorite starring John Cena." A two-picture deal "with Lionsgate will include a reboot of the 'Leprechaun' horror franchise." Then there are "acquisitions like 'The Day,' a postapocalyptic thriller that WWE, working with Anchor Bay, bought at the Toronto International Film Festival and will showcase at the coming Sarasota Film Festival." Another partner is Pathé UK. With 13 PPVs annually, six television broadcasts a week, a line of Mattel action figures and "various other properties, WWE has the kind of marketing clout that should be able to give its film projects -- previously dominated by mediocre vehicles for fading wrestlers -- the juice they need to be commercial." WWE President Michael Luisi, who is "charged with negotiating the future of WWE's movies," said of WWE Studios, "To some degree we’re under a microscope because people are scratching their heads a little bit and saying, 'What exactly are they up to here?'" Anderson wrote what WWE "brings to its partnerships is the entertainment business’s oft-sought but seldom realized vertical integration." William Morris Endeavor Head of Global Finance Graham Taylor, who "consults frequently" with WWE, said, "I would argue that the only real brands in the movie business are Pixar and WWE" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/25).
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