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    Sony Has No Plans For A New Godzilla Film Author: Keith Aiken Source: Sony Pictures

    Last month the German movie news website Cinetech reported that Sony Pictures was considering a sequel to their American version of GODZILLA (1998) for the summer of 2009. Today, reps from Sony stated that there is nothing to the story, and the studio has no plans to make another Godzilla film. While the end result proved to be a disappointment, Sony initially had high hopes for Godzilla, seeing the monster as a franchise character strong enough to support a series of big budget movies in the United States. In October 1992, the studio came to an agreement with the Toho Motion Picture Co. to produce a trilogy of Godzilla movies, with the first film to be released by Sony subsidiary TriStar Pictures in the summer of 1994. In May 1993 producer Cary Woods hired Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (ALADDIN, SHREK, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) to write the screenplay for GODZILLA. After months of fruitless searching for a director, the studio signed Jan DeBont (fresh off the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock hit SPEED) in July, 1994. DeBont began pre-production on GODZILLA for a summer 1996 release, but quit the film at the end of 1994 when Sony would not approve his budget request. With no director attached to the project, TriStar’s GODZILLA went into production limbo for the next year. Shortly before the release of their much anticipated INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996), producer Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich agreed to make GODZILLA under the condition that their production company Centropolis Entertainment would have the freedom to do the movie “their way”. The duo discarded the script and preliminary work done for DeBont`s aborted version. Emmerich had designer Patrick Tatopoulos (STARGATE, PITCH BLACK, UNDERWORLD) create a totally new look for the monster; a slim, fast-moving creature based on the marine iguana. Toho gave their approval for the changes made to Godzilla, and the film was finally scheduled for May 19, 1998. Based on the popularity of Godzilla and the blockbuster success of INDEPENDENCE DAY, Devlin and Emmerich’s GODZILLA was predicted to be the top box office hit of 1998. Unfortunately, Centropolis Entertainment had made a film that was loathed by the majority of moviegoers. Godzilla fans blasted the changes made to a beloved character, critics and audiences trashed the film for its weak story and poor acting, and merchandisers who had spent millions licensing Godzilla were stuck with shelves and shelves of unsold products. GODZILLA also angered theater owners when ticket sales dropped tremendously in the second week of release, impacting heavily on their share of profits. While GODZILLA fell far short of expectations, the film did manage to earn more than $375 million worldwide. In most cases this would have guaranteed a sequel, and in 1999 studio president Amy Pascal told Entertainment Weekly that, "If a movie makes $400 million, you make a sequel. It`s that simple." The problem for Sony was that there was little enthusiasm from audiences, theater owners, and licensees for another film. The animated television spin-off GODZILLA: THE SERIES was a ratings success, but a proposed product line never materialized due to a lack of retailer interest. The studio realized the profit potential for GODZILLA 2 was much lower than had been the case for the first film. Nevertheless, Sony Pictures and Centropolis moved ahead with plans for the film. Tab Murphy (LAST OF THE DOGMEN, Disney’s TARZAN) wrote a story treatment set in Sydney, Australia [Murphy’s 10/19/1999 outline for GODZILLA 2 can be read here]. Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich began pre-production, but— as DeBont had done years before— pulled out of the project in March 1999 when Sony would not approve Centropolis’ planned budget for the film.

    Sony’s deal with Toho required that a second film must be in production within five years of the release of the first GODZILLA. With time on their side, the studio considered waiting a few years before making a new movie that would be a fresh start to Godzilla with absolutely no connection to the 1998 film. [Warner Bros. followed the same plan with their BATMAN BEGINS (2005), which was not linked to that studio’s previous Batman movie BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997)]. In the meantime, Sony decided to release Toho’s GODZILLA 2000 (Gojira Ni-sen Mireniamu, 1999) to US theaters in August of 2000, in part because a Japanese Godzilla film would be seen as a break from the look and story of the Devlin and Emmerich version. In the end, Sony decided not to make a second Godzilla film, and their remake/sequel rights expired in May, 2003. In the years since, there has been occasional talk that a GODZILLA sequel was in the works. A recent Doritos commercial primarily made up of stock footage from the 1998 movie launched a wave of rumors that the ad was somehow tied to a new film, but proved to be nothing more than speculation by hopeful— or worried— fans. The latest rumors on the Cinetech site has led to discussions on several Godzilla fan forums about a possible GODZILLA 2, but today Sony reiterated that their deal to make another film expired years ago. Studio spokesmen also confirmed that there have been no discussions with Toho about reacquiring the rights to make GODZILLA 2 or an all-new Godzilla film, either now or in the foreseeable future.

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