04 November 2015

A Golden Time for a New Golden Compass?

The news that there’s a deal for a television adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is very intriguing for us fans. It also shows how the economics of special-effects adventure dramas have changed in recent years.

In 2007, New Line’s adaptation of The Golden Compass cost an estimated $180 million to make. But that movie just didn’t capture the books’ magic, earning only $70 million in the US. That was so little that New Line’s parent corporation restructured the division the next year, bringing it under the control of Warner Bros. (The film made more overseas, but most of that money went to distributors, not the studio.)

Now television shows like Supergirl can afford digital visual effects on the same level, despite having a lower budget. And miniseries have become quite lucrative. So it’s possible to conceive of a His Dark Materials adaptation that’s not only visually stunning but tells the complete story of the three books.

Philip Pullman is part of this new deal. So is New Line, perhaps because it still holds the dramatic rights, and Scholastic. The production company, Bad Wolf, is new, without any completed projects, but its founders have brought on the BBC, their former employer. They also have ties to HBO, which would be a prime customer for the series in the US. All that makes me feel a little more hope than usual that this announced deal will lead to an actual show.

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