BOOM! Studios & 20th Century Fox Ink Deal By Which Comics Creators Earn Percentage Of First-Dollar Gross
20th Century Fox and BOOM! Studios have agreed to a first-look deal that guarantees creators will see a large percentage of any monies taken in from projects based on their work. Under the deal, BOOM! will get an unspecified amount of first-dollar gross (or box office, minus the split with cinemas) on movies adapted from its properties, which means the company gets a piece of the pie whether the movie ultimately makes a profit or not. Those earnings will be split 50-50 between the publisher and creators.
BOOM! CEO Ross Richie and Vice President of Development Stephen Christy -- who served as editor-in-chief at Archaia, a graphic novel publisher BOOM! recently acquired -- will serve as producers on all movie projects at Fox. Richie was a producer on Fox's 2 Guns, a sleeper hit based on a BOOM! comic book created by Steven Grant and Mateus Santolouco, and Archaia had several projects in the works at Fox even prior to the BOOM! acquisition, including one based on Royden Lepp's Rust.
"In an era where Jack Kirby doesn't get paid for The Avengers, we are bringing the Jack Kirbys into the circle," Richie told The Hollywood Reporter, likely referring more specifically to the Avengers litigation involving the heirs of Jack Kirby, since Kirby himself passed away in the 1990s.
Beyond the first-look and first-dollar deal, BOOM! will have free rein to go through Fox's back catalog and reboot films as comics series -- though certainly some Fox franchises such as Marvel's X-Men won't be available. The Alien and Predator licenses have been with Dark Horse for decades, and this deal may or may not speak to that. But if such film-to-comics projects do lead to new films, BOOM! will serve as a producer on those as well.
There is a belief among some Hollywood insiders that an "umbrella" situation like that of BOOM! Studios' -- where a single corporate entity owns or co-owns and manages the media rights of numerous comic books on behalf of creators -- is a more attractive business partnership than dealing with disparate creators, co-creators and their occasionally arcane rights situations. The Hollywood Reporter specifically identifies Image Comics in this regard, saying, "Image Comics is a powerful force in the industry (it publishes The Walking Dead, among others), [but] the creators of its titles own their respective rights and there is no central hub to deal with, giving rights acquisitions an a la carte feel."
There is of course a long-running discussion about the pros and cons of different creator ownership models within the comics industry with respect to major media exploitation, and the BOOM!/Fox deal with be sure to add fuel to that ongoing debate.
Not every first-look deal has worked out, of course. Dark Horse Comics had a first-look arrangement with Universal, which resulted in exactly one movie: R.I.P.D., which may have been the biggest flop of the summer. That deal has since expired.
The latest BOOM! Studios project to be in development at Fox (as a TV show) is Unthinkable, a spy/terrorism book created by Mark Sable and drawn by Julian Totino Tedesco. BOOM!'s previous Hollywood deal was for Day Men not at Fox but at Universal, with whom the publisher does not have such an innovative deal but whose creators told CA they were satisfied with their arrangement.