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WB’s Watchmen DVD Strategy

The New York Times posted an article today discussing the Warner Brothers was looking to “revive” its DVD sales with plans for a parallel release of the animated “Tales of the Black Freighter” along with a supplemental “Under The Hood” documentary which would be released five days after the March 6, 2009 release of Watchmen into theaters.

According to the Times, the “immediate goal is for the parallel release to help start a potential new movie franchise.”

Huh? Franchise? What franchise? Watchmen is a “one off” story. This ain’t no Iron Man or X-Men, so what kind of franchise does WB think they have a hold of?

The article explained that “The movie studio would not be drafting one of its top filmmakers and sinking millions into ‘Tales of the Black Freighter’ if it did not see a direct benefit for itself.” Translation: if they didn’t think they would make a crapload of money off of it, they wouldn’t have let Snyder make it.

And speaking of WB making a crapload of money… according to Snyder, the “Watchmen” film, will probably generate at least three DVD’s: “Tales of the Black Freighter,” followed about four months later by release of “Watchmen” itself, and then an “ultimate” edition in which the two are edited together into one megamovie.

Snyder went on to say, “the überfans of this property are going to go crazy for that.” I think the überfans would rather not see Watchmen made into a movie at all, but that’s another story altogether.

The original plan was to tell the “Black Freighter” story in a visual style similar to the mock-historical 300. But an early budget was approaching $20 million and the studio balked, he said. Instead, the feature will be animated. However, “Freighter” will have a budget 30 percent to 50 percent higher than a typical direct-to-DVD effort.

In the article, Snyder also said he was eager to head a direct-to-DVD project, in part because it would allow him to use more material from the Watchmen graphic novel.

“I thought the ‘Black Freighter’ story would never see the light of day,” he said. “The main picture is nearing three hours long and I know I have a fight on my hands just with that.”

It seems to me that in Snyder’s push on the studio to make the most faithful adaptation possible, he’s getting creative with WB to try to figure out how multiple DVD products could help finance his vision — and luckily WB is seeing the dollar signs associated with Snyder’s vision.

In addition, the studio plans a dozen 22- to 26-minute Webisodes to help make the complex story easier for the uninitiated to digest. Called “The Watchmen Motion Comic,” it will be a panel-by-panel slide show of the graphic novel narrated by an actor.

These webisodes could be a good sign to fans who are hoping for a lot of fidelity in the film to the source material, as panel-by-panel recreations direct from the pages of the comic would follow the story the way it was originally drawn 20 years ago.

5.26.08 Source: New York Times

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