'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 popular wrestler.
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
"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 Steve
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 for straight-to-DVD.
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 MyNetworkTV.)
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 projects.
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 be.
our films to be successful, they need to cross over,"
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
"12 Rounds" strikes a chord with audiences,
Lake says, "it would say to Vince that he was
John Cena website
12 Rounds website