What’s that? You have an iconic piece of cinema? But what? It’s only a stand-alone piece of film, but it’s so cherished you could milk it for a zillion more dollars because it’s so well respected and beloved and you haven’t done that yet? Cha-ching! Sorry, people this is how it now works. Ridley Scott‘s “Blade Runner” has just too much damn brand equity to simply squander in the pantheon of words and sentiments that say, “lord, that’s such a classic movie.” Modern business thinking demands that you quantify brand equity into some kind of capital and thus more “Blade Runner” films await us even though most of us are thinking we should all just leave well alone.
In 2009, the New York Times were spot on when they said, “Here is some news that will make fans of the 1982 science-fiction cult film… shudder with either anticipation or trepidation.” Back then Ridley & Tony Scott were simply announcing their intentions to create a web-based “Bladerunner” prequel series (though the fine print, that most of us missed, was the fact that they were simply “inspired by” the film; more on that later). We didn’t quite quake in our boots yet (maybe cause of that fine print) and thought, “meh, the worst case scenario, it lives on the web and everyone shrugs at it not being great.”
But now, according to a press release, Warner Bros-based financing and production company Alcon Entertainment (“The Blind Side,” “The Book of Eli”) are in final discussions to secure film, television and ancillary franchise rights to produce prequels and sequels to the iconic 1982 science-fiction thriller “Blade Runner.”
Yikes, Alcon, can pretty much do what they like. Their rights are inclusive, however, they do not have rights to remake the original (whew) starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young (probably the greatest roles for the latter two and for Ford, it’s one of many and one near and dear to our hearts). Note, sources tell us Warner Bros. is not yet formally involved as Alcon is their own shingle, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be one day in the future.
Alcon has secured rights from Bud Yorkin, an exec producer on the original 1982 movie and he’ll be serving as producer on the projects. While some will now report that “Blade Runner” prequels and sequels are in development, but that wouldn’t be quite correct. While we’re sure they’ll want to get that ball rolling soon enough, we’re sure no writers have been hired yet.
Based on Philip K. Dick‘s sci-fi novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” we’ll spare you the “Blade Runner” recap because we assume, if you’re even a tourist-like cinephile, you’ve likely seen it. The interesting thing is that neither Ridley or Tony Scott’s Scott Free production is mentioned in this press release, other than the fact that Ridley directed it and it was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction). That’s kinda odd, no? So what does this mean for the Scott’s Web-based prequels? Well, they’re not in concert with Alcon and it seems like they never were.
Even in 2009 after the web-series announcement, Ag8 partner David Bausola, the co-founder of those projects with the Scott’s RSA Films, admitted “We don’t take any of the canon or copyrighted assets from the movie. It’s actually based on the same themes as ‘Blade Runner.’ It’s the search for what it means to be human and understanding the notion of empathy. We are inspired by ‘Blade Runner.’” Translation: We never had rights. So Alcon will own it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Scotts are out of the picture. If they’re smart, they’ll tap the directors for their ideas now, but it’s possible that Alcon may have outbid them and there could be some ill-will there. We’ll see what unfolds in the upcoming days. Of course, this is just speculation on our part, but “Blade Runner” without Ridley Scott is like the “Alien” franchise without Ridley Scott or a Big Mac without the meat. Sure, you’ll get a James Cameron classic here or there, but mostly you’ll have an “AVP” stain on it that’s so bad it forces Scott to create “Prometheus” as a kind of hail mary to make audiences forget that blemish. And hey, Scott can only live so long. Do it right while you can people (and while his batting average is still semi-respectable).