World Wrestling Entertainment has signed a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox that gives the studio rights to distribute movies headlined by the company's pro wrestlers.
Beginning next year, WWE Films plans to develop, finance and produce at least one theatrical release and up to four direct-to-video titles annually, with Fox receiving a distribution fee should it release the films in theaters, on home video or digitally. It's similar to the pact comicbook giant Marvel Entertainment has with Paramount and Universal on the upcoming Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.
Going forward, though, WWE will focus on making movies across all genres that appeal to a broader audience and land a PG-13 rating, vs. the hard R it had been going after with its previous pics.
First pic out of the multi-year deal with Fox is 12 Rounds, an actioner toplined by John Cena that will be released in 2009 under the Fox Atomic label. Production on the movie, with Renny Harlin at the helm, begins this month in New Orleans.
WWE is looking to spend around $20 million for theatrical releases while direct-to-DVD titles would be made for around $3 million to $5 million.
The wrestling organization has had mixed success since forming its film division in 2002, releasing three pics, See No Evil, featuring Glen "Kane" Jacobs; The Marine, also with Cena; and The Condemned, with Stone Cold Steve Austin.