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Warner Bros. Goes All In On Superheroes, Plans ‘Green Lantern 2’

Warner Bros. Goes All In On Superheroes, Plans 'Green Lantern 2'

Green Lantern,” which “reportedly” cost $300 million to make and market, opened to a soft $53 million last weekend, before plummeting 65% in weekend two amidst bad buzz from critics, audiences and the general press. Sounds like it’s time for a sequel!

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the WB is already planning for the next adventure in the space-set superhero series. Or, rather, they are continuing plans that were made as early as last year, when Michael Goldenberg was retained from the first film’s team of writers to pen a sequel, with tentative plans to shoot a second and third installment back-to-back. Goldenberg was working on a treatment he developed with fellow “Green Lantern” co-writers Greg Berlanti, Michael Green and Marc Guggenheim, which suggests DC may be steaming ahead on a “Green Lantern” franchise like a runaway train, box office failure be damned. If the rumors from late last year are true, this is all from the trilogy outlined and pitched to Warner Bros. by Berlanti.

However, that might be all white noise. If the WB is smart, they junked anything Berlanti-related after seeing a final cut of “Green Lantern,” while the Hollywood Reporter story makes no mention of Goldenberg’s script. In addition to director Martin Campbell very publicly walking away from this series, this “announcement” plays a little desperate, like Warner Bros. is just trying to convince people that they aren’t already attempting to erase the film from memory.

The numbers suggest that best case scenario, “Green Lantern” lands at $350 million globally, provided the international figures show a little giddyup. With $300 million spent, Warner Bros. would need to be looking at massive DVD sales and other ancillaries to break even, which is assuming the official budget numbers are true (even with an extensive post-production period). As we said in our box office report yesterday, the numbers are comparable to “Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer” or even “Hulk,” which collected $289 million and $245 million respectively after decent openings followed by precipitous drops. Those were cheaper projects that only seemed like they killed their franchises; Fox is planning a “Fantastic Four” reboot and the “Hulk” earned another, cosmetically different big screen adventure.

But let’s play along. Though they claim to be “somewhat disappointed” in the film’s performance, Warner Bros. is at a company-wide crossroads. All studios like to diversify, but it seems clearer every day that they depend on franchises. Warner Bros. is expected to go to the well for “The Hangover” again, and another “Clash Of The Titans” has been willed into existence for 2012 by foreign audiences. “Sherlock Holmes” returns this winter, there’s another “Final Destination” coming from New Line, and “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” will be a dubious franchise extension of “Journey To The Center Of The Earth.” What buoyed the company for the last few years was the “Harry Potter” franchise, as each film easily crossed $900 million worldwide theatrically before a most-likely-very lucrative DVD and cable life.

With ‘Potter’ ending this year, Warners has three options. The first is to start manufacturing smart, interesting original projects with attractive concepts and manageable budgets, but hahahahahaha. The second is to kick the tires on a new series of “Matrix” movies (not likely) or try to get “Get Smarter,” “I Am Still Legend” and “Sex In The City 3: The Destruction Of Jared-Syn” into production. The third, and most familiar option, is superheroes.

Warner Bros. has a big 2012 ahead of them, with “The Dark Knight Rises” sure to break box office records, and “The Man Of Steel” sure to… happen. Beyond that, the plan looks to be a “Justice League” film in 2013 that launches DC’s other non-superstar characters. After that, things get a little, well, muddy. With Christopher Nolan producing the next “Superman,” he’s convinced WB execs that his Batman and his Superman will not be a part of a “Justice League” picture. Nolan’s also producing a new “Batman” that won’t involve him or star Christian Bale. So will Ryan Reynolds’ “Green Lantern” become the most recognizable face in the League’s lineup? Or is “Green Lantern” also a part of its own continuity, with a different Lantern joining a new Batman and Superman, in a lineup that likely features Wonder Woman and the Flash? Oh, speaking of which, Berlanti has previously scripted a solo “Flash” film that may or may not be a priority at DC Entertainment, and one that, possibly, takes the “Green Lantern” continuity into account. Also, somebody’s talking about a “Hawkman” movie. Has your brain exploded yet?

While you could easily use another Green Lantern character in the “Justice League” as many in the comics have held that designation (we vote for the John Stewart interpretation), it wouldn’t make sense to have “Green Lantern 2” hit screens in the same year. Which means the soonest we’ll see another “Green Lantern” is 2014, which gives Warner Bros. plenty of time to re-adjust a highly damaged brand. With Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Mark Strong signed on to reprise their roles, the plot would likely find Strong’s Sinestro as the main antagonist, with Lively’s Carol Ferris probably completing her comic book evolution into the superpowered Star Sapphire. We can hardly contain our excitement.

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