The future of Universal looks to be filled with fairy tales, tragic monsters and kinky sex. And maybe at least one more talking teddy bear.
Now that it's free of a contract with Hasbro to develop board game adaptations (you remember "Battleship," right?), Universal Studios is looking to new installments in existing franchises to fill its slate ... and looking to kickstart at least one new one with the film adaptation of that guiltiest of guilty literary pleasures, "Fifty Shades of Grey," which many feel can't come fast enough (no pun intended). <!--more-->
However, Universal chairman Adam Fogelson doesn't believe a fast and furious approach is the right move for "Fifty Shades."
"I don't believe that [author EL James] had any interest in going to a studio where rushing it into production was the vision," said Fogelson in a recent interview with <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/universal-chairman-wants-fifty-shades-422217">The Hollywood Reporter</a>. "I don't believe that the second or third film would have benefited from that strategy. And I think that there are totally legitimate questions about what this book is as a movie."
Never fear, though -- the film might start steaming up theaters as early as Summer 2014.
"I will tell you that it is an absolute priority for us," said Fogelson. "It's conceivable that we could be ready to release it as early as next summer."
Universal is also going full steam ahead with a sequel to last summer's "Snow White and the Huntsman." The production was wrecked with retro-controversy upon the revelation last fall that star Kristen Stewart had an affair with married director Rupert Sanders, but the box office numbers make doing a sequel a no-brainer ... with or without Sanders.
"We're actively developing the movie right now with Kristen's character central, as well as the Huntsman role," said Fogelson. "We think that for a first movie out of the gate to do basically $400 million worldwide, there is a lot of opportunity. I don't think Rupert is pursuing the next 'Snow White' as a directing opportunity."
Universal also definitely wants more "Bourne" movies, even though last summer's Matt Damon-less "The Bourne Legacy" grossed only $276 worldwide ... versus the $442 million scored by 2007's "The Bourne Ultimatum."
"The point of the last movie was to create a universe, a world and characters that give us a lot of freedom and flexibility in how we go forward," said Fogelson. "Yeah, the movie didn't perform the way the last one did. It also didn't cost what the last one did. It performed more along the lines of how the first one did. I absolutely see us doing more Bourne, 100 percent yes. Matt has talked about the possibility of coming back, and we totally respect that and are excited if and when he wants to have conversations. But I think the last movie gave us a big bunch of options to pursue a next chapter."
Universal also has a sequel to Seth MacFarlane's "Ted" in active development, which grossed an astonishing $535 million worldwide. Give that man the Oscars hosting gig!
It's all looking to be a smart game plan for a studio that, as described by Fogelson, doesn't have its own "Marvel library, a DC library, [or] a Bond franchise," though Universal is hoping to bring one of its most cherished properties -- and potential franchises -- back from the dead: the classic Universal movie monsters -- even though such an endeavor certainly has its own set of unique challenges.
"Universal monsters are probably the thing people most equate with our library," said Fogelson. "But monsters are not superheroes. Virtually every monster story is by definition a tragic story. We are developing another 'Mummy.' We are looking at rebooting 'Van Helsing' because I think the idea for the Van Helsing story was a great way of solving the question of, 'How do you make a blockbuster out of monsters?'"
Even if Universal doesn't have it as "easy" as, say, Disney or Warner Bros., Fogelson is optimistic about the studio's future -- and proud of what it's been able to accomplish without any major tentpoles in the last year.
"I think of what we have done with 'Fast & Furious,' of what we did with 'American Pie' this past year -- we had our best year box office-wise and our biggest movie ['Battleship'] was a whiff, so we did it without a single traditional franchise tentpole movie. Not one."