LOS ANGELES (AP) — Battleship steams into movie theaters overseas this week, giving international audiences the first chance to decide whether a board game-based movie is sea-worthy.
The Hasbro Inc. search-and-destroy game was once a way for kids to while away summer afternoons. But as it debuts in Europe on Wednesday, Battleship the movie has become a potential franchise, sporting Michael Bay-inspired special effects, aliens invading Earth, a bikini-model actress, superstar Rihanna and, of course, lots of guns.
Whether the movie symbolizes Hollywood's lack of new ideas or its brilliance in adapting old ones, Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures is betting big that it's the latter. With a reported production budget of $200 million, observers say it will need to reap at least $500 million at box offices worldwide to pay off.
Hollywood's love of the sequel, the prequel, the reboot and the adapted novel all originate from the same premise: Moviegoers are more likely to buy a ticket if they are already familiar with the story.
But not since Clue bombed in 1985 has Tinseltown gambled on adapting a popular board game with no apparent storyline.
The idea of turning board games into movies has gained new traction in part because of the huge success of Transformers, and to a lesser extent G.I. Joe, which are both based on toys from toymaker Hasbro Inc. The three Transformers movies have grossed more than $2.6 billion worldwide, helping lift Transformers toys to become Hasbro's top-selling brand last year, exceeding 11 percent of its $4.3 billion in annual revenue.
If it succeeds, Battleship will be the advance guard of a whole fleet of planned adaptations of Hasbro games including Ouija, also being developed by Universal for release in 2013, as well as Risk and Candy Land, which are both in the works at Sony Corp. Stretch Armstrong, a movie based on the glutinous-armed toy from Hasbro, is set for a 2014 release by Relativity Media.
The movie has built-in appeal with parents who feel nostalgic about the game and want to pass it on to their children, he says.
That formula of appealing to parents with young kids has served Hollywood well, and this summer's line-up of popcorn fare includes everything from decades-old comic book superheroes The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man to two dueling versions of Snow White.
While decrying Hollywood's lack of original ideas, UCLA screenwriting professor Richard Walter says the only chance for Battleship to succeed is if “they threw away everything but the title and made a good movie.”
The mind-numbing array of toy-related movies might have some people groaning. That doesn't mean the trend will end any time soon.
Battleship debuts in the U.S. on May 18.
Photo: COURTESY OF Magnolia Pictures
Rihanna: Singer takes a star turn as Raikes in Battleship.