12/01/2009

Summit Entertainment Ponders Twilight Finale: Breaking Dawn


The two-week $481 million worldwide gross of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” has put Summit Entertainment into the big leagues.

It has also created high class challenges for toppers Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger. As they come down from blockbuster euphoria, they are going to have to cut checks larger than most indie companies ever do if they move ahead with a plan to break Stephenie Meyer’s finale, “Breaking Dawn,” into two pictures.

Sources said Summit has so far only gone as far as setting scribe Melissa Rosenberg--who wrote the first three films--to finish the series, but Summit has to clear several hurdles before telling Rosenberg if she should write one scripts or two.

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

Twilight_fleming_thesps Summit execs would not comment, but multiple sources said that the film company wants to go the two-film route, which means re-opening negotiations and getting 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—Rob Pattinson, Kristin Stewart and Taylor Lautner—could land eight-figure paydays.

That is what happened the 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.

Summitlogo1 While the solution to most of Summit’s challenges will be determined by its willingness to cut large checks, the prospect of a Weitz return is more complicated.

After feeling violated by New Line’s decision to drastically alter his adaptation of “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. Could he possibly 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 is the question he and his WME 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.

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