'12 Rounds' bodyslam box office?, by Marc Graser
- 23rd March 2009
WWE film unit tries capitalizing on top-tier talents
Dwayne (formerly the Rock) Johnson made the successful
leap from the wrestling mat to the bigscreen,
it was only a matter of time before Vince McMahon
threw his hat into the filmmaking ring.
"Movies are a logical extension for our company,"
says the World Wrestling Entertainment topper.
"We know how to tell stories."
while telling those stories on television three
nights a week consistently generates strong ratings,
doing so at the megaplex has proved to be tougher.
releasing three underwhelming performers at the
box office since 2006 -- "See No Evil,"
"The Marine" and "The Condemned,"
which earned a collective $49 million worldwide
-- WWE is trying to land its first big hit with
"12 Rounds," a Renny Harlin-helmed actioner
that stars John Cena, easily the company's most
we were foundering a bit, but we're starting to
crank some good things out," McMahon says.
year, that includes not only "12 Rounds"
but an action comedy that would put Cena in front
of the cameras this summer as well. WWE also co-produced
the third installment of "Behind Enemy Lines"
that was released direct-to-DVD earlier this year,
as well as a sequel to "The Marine."
"Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia" came
out in January, with domestic sales in the vicinity
of 150,000 units, according to WWE.
"12 Rounds" is a second attempt at putting
a spotlight on WWE's athletes in more creative
ways while also developing a major revenue stream
to boost the company's bottom line and promote
its brand worldwide.
a real depth of talent we can use," says
WWE Studios prexy Michael Lake of the company's
roster of wrestlers. "These guys are already
entertainers. They're used to taking direction.
We want to fashion movies to fit their personalities."
a former Village Roadshow exec, has headed up
the turnaround of WWE's movie efforts since 2007,
when he began developing a fresh slate of features
and DVD titles together with Dimension Films alum
theatrical projects include not only the Cena
pics but also laffer "Suckerpunch."
There's also a sequel to "12 Rounds"
(a Western), a reboot of the Chuck Norris franchise
"Missing in Action" with MGM and a "Scorpion
King" sequel at Universal. All are planned
have gone up, with WWE spending around $20 million
for theatrical releases and roughly $3 million-$5
million for DVD projects. Just as its TV shows
have gone PG, its movies are also shying away
from the expected R rating for genre fare.
a distributor was fairly easy. WWE has a relationship
with 20th Century Fox, which released "The
Marine" in 2006, and will distribute pics
via the Fox Atomic label. (WWE also is on Fox's
want to deliver movies that we're going to get
behind," says Debbie Liebling, Fox Atomic's
prexy of production. "They're very selective
in what they put forward and decide internally
who's a wrestler and who's a movie star. ... John
was great, and we wanted to see him morph into
an action star and build him up outside the wrestling
world. There's nothing in the movie that speaks
to his day job."
promotional platforms also should be a major asset
in marketing the film projects.
company produces five hours of TV each week watched
by tens of millions and has live events, pay-per-view
broadcasts, websites, magazines and DVDs it can
use to push pics.
great partners because they speak to their audience
through so many forms of media on a very consistent
basis," says Jeffrey Godsick, exec VP of
marketing and digital content at Fox. "They
bring the fanbase."
convincing Hollywood the WWE can deliver wasn't
easy, mainly because of the mixed results of previous
had to educate people on what it is we were going
to do," Barnett says.
effort's worked, in part, because of the types
of projects WWE wants to make, which have attracted
producers such as Mark Gordon, but also because
the company is one of the few that's financing
its own films.
Vince says go, we go," Lake says. "There
aren't another 20 people to go through."
forward, however, WWE knows it needs to make movies
that appeal to the masses, not just its core fans,
to perform at the box office. The once-lucrative
DVD market just isn't as strong as it used to
our films to be successful, they need to cross
over," Barnett says.
expand its aud, WWE Studios is also branching
into television, developing several scripted projects
that would feature wrestlers or promote the brand
it hopes to start shopping around to not only
U.S. networks but overseas channels as well.
for now, the attention is on "12 Rounds."
says that while WWE's had a lot of meetings around
town, laying the foundation of its film division,
"you have to back it up with something. With
Vince we have a champion who wants to succeed
in the movie business."
"12 Rounds" strikes a chord with audiences,
Lake says, "it would say to Vince that he
John Cena website
12 Rounds website