A fascinating article at Vulture informs us that DreamWorks Pictures, with direct personal involvement from Steven Spielberg, is making a strong play to get control of the rights to a Halo movie and push it into active development.
Why the studio is so eager to move ahead with the project is obvious: Halo is the most successful video game of all time — indeed, one of the most successful properties of any kind. The latest iteration of the game made $200 million on its initial release, and since fans have proven that they'll buy pretty much anything with the Halo imprint from shot glasses to Nerf replica weapons, the property has amassed a staggering $2 billion in total sales. Why DreamWorks might be unwise to do so, however, is just as obvious: development of a Halo movie has been an ongoing process for five years, and has already caused two studios — FOX and Universal — to sink tens of millions of dollars into something that will never see the light of day. While the movie's success seems like a sure thing, and the property is a cash cow of Babe the Blue Ox proportions, DreamWorks could easily find themselves embroiled in a development disaster unseen since the Superman franchise fiasco.
It's a compelling read in the same way all development sagas are for people who never see the kind of money involved: Microsoft commissioned a script for the Halo movie, and had CAA deliver it (by messengers dressed in full-on Master Chief drag) to six studio heads at an asking price of $10 million. A studio head hired a director for the movie — into which she anticipated sinking as much as $350 million — on the basis of seeing six minutes of his work. FOX and Universal sank $12 million into script and production fees over the course of six months, and ended up with nothing to show for it.
DreamWorks is now betting that Spielberg's clout and connections will be enough to Microsoft to back off some of their more egregious demands. But the studio's approach — for example, mining the dregs of novelizations for their script in anticipation of cost savings down the road — indicates it's well aware that the Halo movie has become Hollywood's Great White Whale.