Universal Bails on Tintin

First Universal Pictures backed out of Peter Jackson’s Halo movie, and now the studio is reportedly saying ‘no thanks’ to Jackson’s and Steven Spielberg’s performance-capture adaptation of Georges Remi’s classic Belgian comic strip, Tintin. The Los Angeles Times reports that universal execs refused to put up the $130 million that Spielberg and Jackson wanted to make the animated action/adventure flick, the first in a planned trilogy.

In addition to the cost of making a major animated release, Tintin is saddled with big payouts for Jackson and Spielberg, who would get a substantial cut of the film’s revenues. Suddenly, two filmmakers who have had few problems getting projects off the ground are feeling the pinch of Hollywood belt tightening. Studios would easily put up $130 million for another Indiana Jones or Lord of the Rings movie, but a toon based on a Belgian comic strip is a bigger gamble. The Times cites sources close to the project who say the film would have to make about $425 million worldwide before its financiers could break even.

Tintin was scheduled to go into production this month with Paramount putting up half of the money. The parent company of Spielbeg’s DreamWorks, Paramount has already invested more than $30 in developing the project and commissioning animation tests from Jackson’s Weta Digital. It’s unlikely that Paramount will put up the remaining balance on Tintin‘s budget, especially considering relations between the studio and Spielberg are strained, and are likely to result in DreamWorks breaking away from Paramount. Universal is expected to then swoop in as DreamWorks’ distribution partner.