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Saturday, February 05, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Microsoft goes Hollywood: "Halo" to hit big screen

Seattle Times technology reporter

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"Halo 2" went on sale in November and became the second best-selling game in the United States last year.

Microsoft may finally be getting into a business where "blue screen of death" could actually be a good thing.

The company is going from writing code to writing a movie script adapting the "Halo" video-game franchise, according to a report yesterday in Daily Variety.

It's wrapping up a million-dollar deal to hire Alex Garland, the writer of the movie "28 Days Later" and the novel "The Beach," to bring "Halo" to the big screen, according to the report.

Variety said it confirmed the deal with Creative Artists Agency, which represents Microsoft and Garland in Hollywood. The agency hired Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley in 2003 to represent video-game makers in Hollywood deals.

Microsoft would not comment on the matter yesterday, except to say that "Halo" is a hotly sought-after property in the entertainment world. It added that it has not made any official movie announcements.

"Halo 2" went on sale in November and became the second best-selling game in the United States last year, losing out only to the latest installment in the popular "Grand Theft Auto" video-game series. "Halo 2" has sold 6.4 million copies worldwide since its release, bringing the sales total for both "Halo" games to 12.8 million units. The original "Halo" went on sale in 2001.

According to Variety, Microsoft is planning to develop the script on its own and take it to movie studios only after it is complete. Such a move in Hollywood is unusual for a tech company, the report said.

Microsoft likely wants to make sure that the "Halo" brand isn't diluted, said Matt Rosoff, an analyst covering the company at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland-based independent research firm.


Alex Garland has reportedly been hired by Microsoft.

"This is one completely new piece of intellectual property that Microsoft owns, and because of that they want to make sure they have control over the image," he said. "They've created this valuable franchise and there aren't many of those out there."

To be sure, there is little else in Microsoft's product library that could similarly inspire Hollywood. "The Adventures of SharePoint Portal Server 2003," anyone? Anyone?

So far, there has been little public mention of what actors could star in the movie or what the plot could cover. The "Halo" story line involves the conflicts between humans intent on colonizing outer space and an army of alien species that wants to destroy mankind. The hero is a character named "Master Chief," a super-soldier leading the charge to protect Earth from the encroaching aliens.

Film adaptations of video games haven't been consistently successful at the box office. The film version of the "Final Fantasy" video-game series made only $11.4 million in its opening weekend in theaters. The film "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" opened in first place at the box office, however, and went on to clear the $100 million mark in ticket sales.

The movie "Resident Evil" bombed in 2002 but its sequel released last year hit the top of the charts. And "Super Mario Bros.," released in 1993, made only $21 million — less than half its production budget — in the United States.

Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or kpeterson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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