Warner Bros. Reboots Terminator

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Variety reports that Warner Bros. has acquired North American distribution rights to Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, triggering an early 2008 production start for a film that seeks to reinvent the cyborg saga with a storyline to be told over a three-movie span.

WB plans to distribute “Terminator Salvation” in summer 2009.

The “Terminator” film franchise got a new lease on life in spring, when privately funded Halcyon and its co-CEOs Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson teamed with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines executive producer Moritz Borman to acquire film, merchandising and licensing rights from ex-Carolco partners Andy Vajna and Mario Kassar. Kubicek, Anderson and Borman are producing the new film, with Peter D. Graves as executive producer.

WB had first right of negotiation for domestic theatrical and TV distribution rights because the studio played the same role on 2003’s Jonathan Mostow-directed “Terminator 3.”

The producers said that the new film will carry the size and scale of “Terminator 3,” and will have an event-sized budget.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, which distributed “Terminator 3” in most overseas territories, is expected to get first crack at a reprise. Several other territories are spoken for, including Japan, where Toho-Towa is expected to distribute once again.

A screenplay has been completed by “Terminator 3” writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris, and the financiers and studio are close to locking a director. While industry buzz has Charlie’s Angels director McG as the odds-on favorite for the assignment, the producers said no final decision had yet been made.

“This is set in the future, in a full-scale war between Skynet and humankind,” Anderson told the trade.

Borman said: “The third film was really the conclusion of what happened in the ‘now.’ You will find the most-loved characters, but the intention here is to present a fresh new world and have this be the first of a trilogy.”

The producers said it wasn’t yet clear whether Arnold Schwarzenegger will be back for his fourth appearance in the franchise that launched his movie career. “T3” was the last film in which he starred before becoming governor of California.

“We’ve left it open for him to maybe do a cameo,” Borman said. “He has an important job, as we know, and the final decision will be based on his desire and availability, along with what the director wants.”