Interview: Cindy Bond (The Ten Commandments, 2007)

As chief operating officer of Promenade Pictures, Cindy Bond had high hopes for The Ten Commandments, the first in a projected 12-part series of computer-animated ‘Epic Stories of the Bible,’ when it opened in theatres last October. But the film failed to make much of a splash, opening well out of the Top 20 and grossing less than a million dollars — on a project that cost $11.6 million to make.

The movie came out on DVD last week, and Bond spoke to CT Movies about what went wrong — and how things might be different with their next film, a comedy about Noah’s Ark due sometime around Easter 2009.

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Will Apatow’s Year One be “biblical” after all…?

Year One, the upcoming comedy produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Harold Ramis, has been referred to as a “biblical comedy” in various reports, but there has been some debate over how accurate that label really is — especially since none of the characters mentioned to date have had any direct biblical parallels. For a while, it was seeming like the film’s theme and setting might be more “ancient” than anything else.

But now … the Hollywood Reporter says Hank Azaria has signed on to play a character named Abraham. Hmmm.

And it was already revealed last month that one of the other characters would be named Princess Inanna, which happens to be the name of a Sumerian fertility goddess. Hmmm.

And it just so happens that the biblical Abraham lived, if not in Sumer itself, then very close to Sumer. Double hmmm.

Dear Lord, don’t let my children be philistines.

What, oh what, did I ever do to deserve a child who rushes to turn off the DVD player while the end credits are still rolling?

I first noticed this problem a few days ago. My eldest son used to hop with joy when the VeggieTales video came to its end and some techno-mix thingy began playing over the closing credits. But a few days ago, when the end credits began, my boy didn’t have time to start his usual hopping, because his sister zipped right over to the PlayStation and turned the machine off.

And then, today, she did it again, when the first episode on one of our Mister Rogers discs came to an end and the credits began to roll. This time, however, my daughter immediately regretted what she had done, because she had wanted to watch the second episode on that disc, too. So I cued it up for her.

I sometimes wonder if I’m being a bad parent just because I let the kids watch TV at all. But episodes like these make me think I’m failing to bring these children up properly in other ways.

Speaking of lawsuits over movies that made a lot of money in the early months of 2004 …

People reports that Benedict Fitzgerald, co-writer of The Passion of the Christ (2004), is suing writer-director Mel Gibson for $5 million:

In the 21-page complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Benedict Fitzgerald accuses Gibson of fraud, breach of contract and unfair business practices.

“Gibson preyed monetarily on Ben, taking advantage of his unbridled enthusiasm for the project and with full cognizance of Ben’s fundamental personal and spiritual beliefs,” the lawsuit says.

Fitzgerald claims Gibson, who also takes a screenwriting credit on the 2004 film, engaged in a “chronic and conspiratorial pattern of deceit,” telling Fitzgerald he’d be working on a small, $4 million to $7 million project that would yield little money for Fitzgerald and none for Gibson.

Although by some accounts the film grossed over $600 million worldwide, Fitzgerald complains he was paid $75,000 and that he had to borrow $200,000 from Gibson for expenses.

Incidentally, it was just over a year ago that I linked to an item on a film that Fitzgerald was developing called Myriam, Mother of the Christ. At the time, the film was “slated to bow around Easter 2008″, but those plans evidently didn’t pan out. I wonder what stage that project is at, now, or if it is still in the works.

FEB 12 UPDATE: The Associated Press adds this detail:

Fitzgerald also alleged Gibson promised he wouldn’t receive any money from the film and any profit would be distributed to people who worked on the movie.

Gibson stated he didn’t want “money on the back of what he considered a personal gift to his (Roman Catholic) faith,” the lawsuit said.

So, um, the question has to be asked: What is Fitzgerald planning to do with the money, if he should win the lawsuit?

New difficulties for New Line and The Hobbit

New Line Cinema famously settled its legal dispute with The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson late last year. But as far as I can tell, the lawsuit filed by Saul Zaentz, who owns the film rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy, is still a going concern. And now, the Associated Press reports that the studio is facing yet another lawsuit — this time, from the Tolkien estate, the HarperCollins publishing company, and possibly others:

The plaintiffs seek more than $150 million in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages and a court order giving the Tolkien estate the right to terminate any rights New Line may have to make films based on other works by the author, including “The Hobbit.”

Such an order would scuttle plans New Line has in the works to make a two-film prequel based on “The Hobbit.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has posted its own report on the rumours surrounding the possibility that New Line might be shut down by parent company Time Warner and/or folded into the regular Warner Brothers movie studio, which would “add to an already heavy slate of films that have strained the studio’s resources.” Would Warner, which still has at least two more Harry Potter films in the wings, commit to yet another major fantasy duo? Or, seeing all the legal problems that they might inherit from New Line, would they decide it wasn’t worth the extra hassle?

Make of all that what you will.

(Hat tip to Jeffrey Overstreet at The Looking Closer Journal for the Associated Press story.)

Canadian box-office stats — February 10

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Rambo — CDN $4,090,000 — N.AM $36,876,490 — 11.1%
27 Dresses — CDN $6,570,000 — N.AM $65,078,461 — 10.1%
Untraceable — CDN $2,240,000 — N.AM $24,320,956 — 9.2%
Juno — CDN $10,710,000 — N.AM $117,506,107 — 9.1%

The Bucket List — CDN $6,350,000 — N.AM $74,995,446 — 8.5%
Cloverfield — CDN $6,330,000 — N.AM $76,040,905 — 8.3%
Meet the Spartans — CDN $2,640,000 — N.AM $33,950,850 — 7.8%
Fool’s Gold — CDN $1,550,000 — N.AM $21,589,295 — 7.2%
The Eye — CDN $1,330,000 — N.AM $21,418,982 — 6.2%
Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour — CDN $979,372 — N.AM $53,177,568 — 1.8%

A couple of discrepancies: Untraceable and Cloverfield were #7 and #9 on the Canadian chart, respectively (they were #11 and #12 in North America as a whole), while Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins and There Will Be Blood were #2 and #10 on the North American chart, respectively.