With Walt Disney Pictures no longer on board to help launch the third movie installment of the "Chronicles of Narnia," 20th Century Fox has reportedly stepped in to partner with Walden Media for the next title in the Christian-themed fantasy series.
As first reported by Variety magazine, Fox and Walden plan to split production and marketing costs for "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," which is projected to go into production on a $140 million budget. Though the two companies are still working out budget and script issues, the hope is to shoot the film at the end of summer for a holiday 2010 release through the Fox Walden label.
News of Fox's role in the novel-based movie series comes one month after Disney announced that it would not be co-producing and co-financing "Dawn Treader," citing "budgetary considerations and other logistics" as reasons behind the decision.
The announcement, which came just days before the Christmas holiday, came as a disappointment to many as it placed some doubt over whether movie adaptations would be produced for the remaining books by "Narnia" author C.S. Lewis.
But David Weil, chief executive of Walden's parent company, Anschutz Film Group, had assured Lewis fans that Walden Media would move forward.
"We're disappointed that Disney has decided not to go forward," said Weil after Disney's announcement, according to the Los Angeles Times. "But we regard 'Dawn Treader' as an extremely valuable property and remain committed to the franchise."
In 2005, the first Narnia film, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," raked in $745 million in ticket sales worldwide on a $180 million production budget. The second, however, released two years later, pulled in only $419 million despite a larger $200 million budget.
Many critics blamed Disney for the second film's less impressive success, claiming that Disney refused to have any pre-screenings and would not pursue any special marketing of the film to churches and other Christian markets, where C.S. Lewis is regarded as one of the most influential Christian apologists of his time.
"[F]or the first film an extensive and highly effective marketing campaign directed by Motive Entertainment (the marketing experts from Passion of the Christ fame) produced an enormous response from Christian movie goers," noted the Calif.-based C.S. Lewis Society in a statement.
"Disney however presented Prince Caspian as a strictly secular and violent, fantasy/adventure/romance, and the result was all too predictable," it added.
Now, with Disney out the picture and Fox in, Narnia fans will be waiting for Fox and Walden to greenlight the film after budget and script concerns are settled.
According to Variety, Fox's commitment to the summer start date is contingent upon Walden's selection of a writer.