The "Terminator" franchise is changing hands faster than anyone anticipated with the announcement today that the bankrupt Halcyon Company is putting the property up for auction in January. And surprise, every studio in town is considering bidding for a movie series that just grossed $371 million worldwide with last summer's release of "Terminator: Salvation." The property is so potentially valuable even Joss Whedon weighed in today on what he'd do to reboot it (well, sort of).
And while this franchise isn't a perfect fit for every movie company, most are salivating at the possibility of acquiring a pop culture lexicon that has grossed over $1 billion worldwide through four films. There's also always a slim chance someone will just bid to reinvigorate Halcyon independently, but that's a horrific scenario "Terminator" fans shouldn't worry themselves with. As each bidder tries to formulate what their limit is, here's a rundown of all the potential new owners, why they'd want "Terminator" and their chances at making a deal.
Why: Uni's franchise future is pretty bleak. Besides "Wanted" and a rejuvenated "Fast and Furious," they are hoping "Scott Pilgrim" explodes, Damon agrees to do another "Bourne," and a potentially played out fourth "Jurassic Park" finally happens. "Terminator" would also be a great product to exploit in a new NBC, SyFy or USA TV series and its an easy sell for the worldwide Universal Theme Parks where a "T2" ride had made its home. [A "Terminator Salvation" ride is currently at competitor Six Flags.]
Chances: The timing of this is absolutely horrible for the company. It's hard to believe a possible Comcast acquisition will have been finalized by January and that studio execs will have the green light to spend big bucks to go after it.
Why: The company already had wild success releasing the past two features overseas and is also in semi-desperation mode with their franchise slate after the Bond films returned to previous rights holder MGM. Right now, they've got "Spider-Man" and are rushing development on "Men in Black" and "XXX" which considering the quality of the last two installments is never a good place to be.
Chances: Strong. Sony has the pockets to to outbid their competitors and just might to solidify the studio's franchise potential.
Why: The studio has already successfully marketed and released the last two "Terminator" films, but wasn't able to have a real hand in the creative process. Many WB execs are probably salivating at the chance to fix the problems they saw in the new storyline long before "Salvation" hit the editing room. Any new "Terminator" film would also mean the studio wouldn't feel as much pressure to rush another "Superman" film and fill a regular slot after "Harry Potter" finishes its stellar run.
Chances: Unclear. WB is doing extremely well, but unlike other studios they aren't as desperate for another property. Having dealt with the intricacies with the past two releases, they may also believe the fan base has a natural cap that limits the worth of the property.
Why: As shown by their acquisition of one potential new franchise, "Kick-Ass," and the quick fade of "Saw," the mini-major is interested in new steady revenue streams besides Tyler Perry flicks.
Chances: The financial instability at the company whose fortunes seem to dramatically rise and fall each quarter may cap just how much they can reasonably bid.
Why: Duh, it would be nice to have another franchise besides "Twilight." And if the team at Summit knows how to do anything, it's open big, studio tent poles. It's the smaller, mid-range flicks they are having problems with.
Chances: Let's see how much "New Moon" makes. If it produces a significantly higher bonanza than the first "Twilight," don't be surprised if Summit makes it to the final round.
Why: They are 50/50 partners in "The Hobbit," but Warner Bros. is driving the production and marketing on that train. Besides Bond, they just don't have many real potential movie franchises in the works and won't be able to really revive the grand lion without them.
Chances: Almost nil. There is no way the company's restructuring will be completed by the auction date and it's hard to believe their creditors will let them be a serious player. Too bad, because they could really use it.
20th Century Fox
Why: As much as they have tried, the studio really doesn't have any male-skewing franchises to alternate between their "Wolverine" and "X-Men" flicks. It's hard to imagine their corporate cousins at the Fox Broadcasting Network diving into another "Terminator" TV series after dumping "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" last year, but never say never. There is also the James Cameron factor. The franchise's creator has long made Fox his home and it may be appealing to reunite him with his baby, even in a producing role. In fact, it could do wonders for the studio's seemingly never-ending sour relationship with the movie geek community.
Chances: Mediocre. The movie studio would love it, but it may not be worth enough overall to parent NewsCorp to justify overpaying which seems a likely scenario for the winner.
Why: The Melrose lot isn't desperate for another franchise with more "Transformers," "Star Trek" "G.I Joe" in the works, but it would be a great brand to sell alongside them.
Chances: Unclear. The studio has made a hefty profit off of "Paranormal Activity," but it was much needed cash to help with marketing releases in early 2010 not to necessarily go on a spending spree. Is the company financially solvent enough to pay big bucks for a new property?
Walt Disney Studios
Why: It would be a bold move for new studio head Rick Ross as he tries to re-invigorate the Touchstone label and who wouldn't want to have Jerry Bruckheimer or the new DreamWorks partner on the franchise? Plus, a new "Terminator" ride could help invigorate the Hollywood Studios and California Adventure theme parks.
Chances: Low. Disney has already invested in Marvel Studios and sees that as its future in the young male and action movie business. Still, Disney CEO Bob Iger has consistently surprised so anything is possible.
Don't kid yourself: The Weinstein Company, Overture Films
Who do you trust to revive the "Terminator" franchise? Share your thoughts below.