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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Breaking Dawn" Dilemma


Splitting last novel into two films means expensive talks
By MICHAEL FLEMING


The two-week $481 mil­lion world­wide gross of “New Moon” has vaulted Sum­mit Enter­tain­ment into the big leagues, but it also has cre­ated a high-class chal­lenge for top­pers Rob Fried­man and Patrick Wachsberger.

They will likely have to cut a few big checks if they decided, as rumored, to split Stephe­nie Meyer’s final “Twi­light” novel, “Break­ing Dawn,” into two pic­tures. Sources said Sum­mit has set Melissa Rosen­berg — who wrote the first three films — to fin­ish the series, but Sum­mit has to clear sev­eral hur­dles before Rosen­berg learns how many more scripts she’ll write.

One of those hur­dles is fig­ur­ing out whether “New Moon” direc­tor Chris Weitz will respond favor­ably to over­tures from the film com­pany and the cast to shoot two more films, back to back.

Sum­mit execs would not com­ment, but mul­ti­ple sources said the com­pany wants to go the two-film route, which means reopen­ing nego­ti­a­tions and secur­ing approval from the author. It also means mak­ing new deals with a prin­ci­pal cast that is only locked up for four films. If “Break­ing Dawn” becomes two pic­tures, all of the key cast mem­bers will get fat raises, and the three prin­ci­pals — Robert Pat­tin­son, Kris­ten Stew­art and Tay­lor Laut­ner — could land pay­days in the eight-figure range.

That’s what hap­pened with key cast mem­bers when Warner Bros. extended its block­buster “Harry Pot­ter” fran­chise by turn­ing J.K. Rowling’s last book, “Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hal­lows,” into two films that will be released in Novem­ber 2010 and July 2011. The global suc­cess of the fran­chise made the pay­days worthwhile.

While the solu­tion to most of Summit’s chal­lenges will be deter­mined by its will­ing­ness to open its wal­let, the prospect of a Weitz return is more complicated.

While the solu­tion to most of Summit’s chal­lenges will be deter­mined by its will­ing­ness to open its wal­let, the prospect of a Weitz return is more complicated.

After feel­ing vio­lated by New Line’s alter­ing of his pic “The Golden Com­pass,” Weitz said he felt redeemed and rein­vig­o­rated by the suc­cess of “New Moon.” Yet, just before the film’s release, Weitz was stead­fast that he would next direct “The Gar­dener,” a com­par­a­tively tiny film scripted by Eric Eason, with Paul Witt and Chris­t­ian McLaugh­lin pro­duc­ing. At the time, he said Sum­mit was in dis­cus­sions to fund that film.

Sum­mit hasn’t closed a deal for “The Gar­dener,” prob­a­bly because the film com­pany wants Weitz to post­pone it and work on “Break­ing Dawn” instead. Can Weitz resist the chance to fin­ish a global fran­chise he helped build, even though it will mean more time away from his fam­ily for a long shoot? That’s the ques­tion the helmer and his reps will weigh shortly. Though Sum­mit hasn’t offi­cially made Weitz an offer, sources said the job is his if he wants it. After bring­ing in “New Moon” at around $50 mil­lion and keep­ing the cast happy, he’s the log­i­cal choice.

David Slade directed the next install­ment in the “Twi­light” series, “Eclipse,” which bows June 30.

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