In an ironic way, toymaker Hasbro is helping Randall Emmett and George Furla grow up.
As film financiers, the producers have built a reputation for making mid-range-budgeted action films such as "2 Guns," "Righteous Kill" and the reboots of "Conan the Barbarian" and "Rambo," aimed at males that frequent the megaplex.
But when they landed a three-picture deal with Hasbro last year, Randall Emmett and George Furla turned heads. With adaptations of games Monopoly and Hungry Hungry Hippos and the Action Man toy, the producers now find themselves in the tentpole biz, a four-quadrant arena where they haven't played before.
"Monopoly" will be the first project to go into production, in 2014, followed by "Hungry Hungry Hippos," Emmett/Furla's first foray into animation.
Hasbro has been looking to get a "Monopoly" movie on the bigscreen since 2009, and the project, which has Ridley Scott attached as a producer, will likely begin production next summer.
"We're very optimistic with the take," Emmett says of the film that was recently set up at Sony -- which also is developing an adaptation of Hasbro's board game Risk, with Overbrook Entertainment's James Lassiter.
It hopes to begin the two-year animation process on "Hungry Hungry Hippos" next year.
With each film, Emmett/Furla will independently finance the productions before shopping them to a studio for a distribution deal the way Universal released "2 Guns" domestically, covering all of the marketing costs.
To finance the films, it's turning to a $500 million-plus fund it set up with Envision Entertainment's Stepan Martirosyan and Remington Chase, who have amassed fortunes from Russian oil and real estate holdings before backing films with Emmett/Furla in 2011.
That money helped elevate the types of films Emmett and Furla make. And with Hasbro in the fold, Hollywood is taking the producers more seriously than ever. If a major player like Hasbro is willing to put some of its valuable brands in the hands of Emmett and Furla, why not other movies looking for backing when studios are less willing to take a chance on an unproven property?
Emmett/Furla Films already is one of the more prolific shingles in Hollywood, having produced more than 70 films, which have earned more than $500 million at the worldwide B.O. since 1998.
But should "Monopoly" alone hit big, Emmett/Furla could quickly see its success transform within just a few weeks in theaters. "It is a big deal for us," Emmett admits. "We're very aware that being partners with Hasbro is a big moment for our company."
Emmett and Furla's relationship with Hasbro began more than a year ago, when the producers were introduced to the toymaker by their agent and WME co-CEO Ari Emanuel. The talent agency reps Hasbro's entertainment deals.
"It took many months to get to a place where Hasbro felt they could trust us. It was a big deal for them to take a leap of faith," Emmett says. "They're a big corporate company. They're very protective of their brands. They don't just hand off their brands to anybody and say good luck. They have a lot at stake and a lot of money invested in these brands. They do a lot of due diligence. They're very smart. They wanted to know who George and I were. We were definitely being interviewed through the entire process."
Monopoly, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Action Man (pictured) were chosen as the first projects "because there's not a lot of Hasbro properties available," Emmett says. Most of the studios already own the more high-profile projects, including "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe," set up at Paramount. "Candy Land" is set up at Sony, with Adam Sandler attached to produce. Stretch Armstrong, Ouija and Clue are still up for grabs, after being set up at Universal.
So far so good.
"The creative relationship has been a really magical experience," Emmett says. "They're really fun to work with. They know their business and it's amazing to get all the intel they give you about the brand. We discuss everything together. No one does anything without the other.
"These are very high-profile brands and the most high-profile titles we've ever had," Emmett says. "Who knows if we'll ever have another brand that big."
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