If ‘Battleship’ Succeeds, Expect More Game Based Films Soon
Battleship, based on the popular board game we all cheated at as kids, sails into theaters this week causing many to wonder whether a game-based film can sink or swim with moviegoers.
The film, based on the board game of the same name, debuts in Europe before hitting the states, and holds potential franchise promise for Hasbro Inc., the company behind Battleship properties. The film has all we’ve come to expect from a summer blockbuster: splashy special effects, alien invasion, bikini-clad babes, Rihanna, and lots of spent ammunition. But will the concept win the hearts of audiences, or is it too far-fetched? Universal Pictures is hoping for the former, investing $200 million in its production. Already, box office mojos are saying it’ll need to take in more than double that to be considered profitable.
Does the Battleship adaptation show ingenuity, or that Hollywood is running out of ideas? The film business knows that it can reap box office gold from your wallet producing films that boast a familiar concept. It’s part of the reason we’ve gotten countless remakes and reboots lately. Audiences stick to what they know. But a board game? Is that too remote?
Not necessarily. The Transformers franchise is based on a Hasbro Inc. toy-line. So is G.I. Joe. The Transformers films have made $2.6 billion worldwide. But board games aren’t toys, and with Clue‘s 1985 adaptation bombing the box office and audiences alike, many might wonder if board games have anywhere to go but nowhere. Re-igniting the fire of board game popularity is Brian Goldner, Hasbro’s CEO since 2008. He told investors in February “we’re going to reignite our games business.” Transformers paid off for Hasbro, causing their toy sales to exceed 11 percent of its $4.3 billion in annual revenue. They’re hoping the same is true for Battleship, and if they succeed, more game adaptations are on the way: Ouija by Universal in 2013, Risk and Candyland by Sony Corp, and Stretch Armstrong (though not a board game) is set for a 2014 release on behalf of Relativity Media.
But the question at the crux of all of it is, will Battleship succeed? Depends who you ask, but it seems hopeful. It has the right formula. It has the star-studded cast. “It reeks of ‘Transformers,’ which is all a good thing,” says Gene Del Vecchio, an entertainment research consultant and author of “Creating Blockbusters: How to Generate and Market Hit Entertainment for TV, Movies, Video Games and Books.” He also said that the movie already has “built-in appeal” for nostalgic parents wanting to share Battleship with their kids.
Hollywood may look like it’s running out of ideas according to UCLA screenwriting professor Richard Walter, but Battleship may still float so long as “they threw away everything but the title and made a good movie.”
And no matter what, the movie will sell with kids. “The parents can get fatigued, but children don’t,” says Jim Silver, editor in chief of toy-reviewing website TimetoPlayMag.com, who says parents usually succumb to their children’s demands for movie-related toys. “If you take three kids to the movies and they love it, and they want to have that play experience at home … chances are parents are going to buy it. However, if they never see the movie, then that’s a different story.”
Battleship debuts in the U.S. on May 18. Take your kids and go see it. What do you have to lose?