There's no reason to doubt that The Memory of Shadows
is a theatrical film. After his "2.35:1 hole in the wall" hint JMS said he was amazed at how many people had twigged to what he thought was a fairly obscure clue. Since every usenet post that I saw on the subject correctly identified that as a theatrical film ratio, I don't think there's much room for doubt. "Screenplay" can also be used for the script for a TV show (especially one shot on film, or for a TV movie) but "2.35:1" only means one thing.
As for the film's possible budget - the $40 million figure is purely somebody's guess, and I suspect it is on the low end. Several years ago JMS talked about the budgets for the B5
TV movies, which averaged about $2.5 to $3 million, and said he thought his team coule produce a hell of a theatrical film for $35 to $50 million - at a time when the average
non-F/X Hollywood "A" picture (not necessarily one with big-name stars) cost about $50 million. So it was really a "we've done so much with so little for so long that we could do something really spectucular for what the studios blow on a Paulie Shore 'comedy'" kinda comment - not a serious budget estimate. And, in any event, it was years old.
is untested in the theatrical marketplace, so WB will have reason to keep costs down. But the B5
cast aren't in a position to demand huge
salaries, certainly not for what may only be movie #1, so that won't be a problem. And the show has proved hugely successful on home video - which is why they're doing a theatrical film in the first place. (Modesty forbids me from mentioning the name of the person who predicted that strong DVD sales could revive the on-again/off-again theatrical movie project - back in 1998
) Between projected DVD sales, overseas box office, airline, pay per view, premium cable, first-run TV and subsequent TV airings (plus all of the same overseas) WB could probably give the film a quite substantial budget and still be assured of breaking even if they don't sell a single ticket domestically. This is virtually a risk-free proposition for them, and the potential up-side to finally establishing B5
as the kind of Trek
-like "brand" franchise through additional films and spin-offs is practically unlimited.
it was surprising success in (broadcast) syndication that made an obscure, cancelled show a cult hit and positioned the show to be remembered when Star Wars
got Hollywood to see outer space and SF as a money-maker again. In the fractionalized, post-cable-and-satellite world of contemporary TV, syndicated reruns can't
work that kind of magic for any series, much less a demanding, arc-driven show like B5
that really has to be followed closely to be appreciated. But DVD proved the perfect
medium for the show. Not only is the existing fanbase buying the series, but those folks are lending their sets to friends, who get hooked and buy their own copies and lend them
to friends... And eventually constitute a really substantial audience for a theatrical movie.
At the rate the DVDs are selling, I don't think you can call the B5
audience "small" anymore. It isn't Trek
-sized, or Star Wars
-sized, but it hasn't been a franchise and cultural icon for going on 40 years, nor was it kicked off by the then-highest-grossing film of all time. For a ten year old show seen mostly on independent broadcast stations and two cable channels that many cable systems don't even carry, the series is doing pretty well in terms of audience size.
Don't forget, a movie that sells tickets to 2 million people at $7 to $10 a pop is doing pretty well. (Every mega-blockbuster like Jaws
, the original Star Wars
has done so thanks to repeat
ticket buyers, not by attracting a much audience.) A TV show that draws 2 million viewers on broadcast television is a bomb and gets cancelled in six weeks. It takes a much bigger
audience to succeed in television than in the movies.
| ...it would have to be a disaster of a movie not to make back its money and some profit. I am confident that we will see something new in the B5 universe in the next few years. |
I agree. I would not be surprised to see something for Summer 2006, or possibly even Christmas 2005, although the latter might be pushing it. It all depends on how fast WB wants to move and the availability of cast and crew. JMS said he has recently turned in what he expects to be the second-to-last draft of the script (allowing for one more round of notes from the studio and/or director) and the broad outlines of the story were worked out last year, so there's plenty of pre-production work that can have started as soon as the project was greenlit. (They know all the stuff from the series that will have to be redesigned and recreated both to take advantaqe of the bigger budget and to stand up to scrutiny on the big screen: Sets, alien make-ups, matte paintings, 3d CGI models, alien make-ups. And major locations and sets like Minbar, IA headquarters, EarthDome, etc. will have been established in the early script treatments and pretty much locked in by the time the production was given the go-ahead. The action and dialogue that takes place within the sets and locations may change, but not the places themselves. So again, location scouts, designs, set construction, CGI modelling can all be going forward