EXCLUSIVE: Almost three decades after its launch, Morgan Creek Productions is changing its name to Morgan Creek Entertainment Group as it is making a big push across television, features and digital. The company is looking to exploit across multiple platforms its library of movie titles including Ace Ventura, Major League, Young Guns, Dead Ringers, Diabolique, Pacific Heights and Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.
Morgan Creek, founded in 1988 by James G. Robinson and Joe Roth and built by Baltimore-based entrepreneur Robinson, has a library consisting of 60-plus feature titles, including 13 movies that debuted at No. 1 at the box office. “Morgan Creek’s globally recognized brand and premium titles are an ideal fit for the extraordinary creative revolution taking place in the television and digital worlds today, ”said MCEG president David Robinson, the son of James Robinson.
The renewed effort to mine the library actually started five years ago with The Exorcist, a title Morgan had acquired from Warner Bros awhile back. It was rebooted as a TV series, which eventually landed at Fox and got on the air. The series, which has been a modest linear ratings performer but has earned strong reviews, is now in its second season.
“We figured it was the best, most recognizable title to go out with,” said David Robinson. “We loved the idea behind it and its prospects, domestically and internationally.”
The process has now accelerated, with a number of remakes — mostly for TV — in various stages of development. For instance, talks are underway with a streaming service about a Young Guns movie and TV series. There also are discussions with a showrunner for a Dead Ringers series reboot.
With the Ace Ventura franchise, “we wanted to do a mainstream theatrical production relaunch,” Robinson said, stressing that the idea is not to do a straight remake but a new movie in the spirit of the original, part of Morgan Creek’s strategy to honor its library properties with the new takes without undercutting them. “Because it’s episodic in nature, about a pet detective, it also lends itself to a traditional single-camera series franchise.”
The strategy behind the various possible revivals of a title — TV series vs. movie — and what goes first will be determined largely by where they land. “We are platform agnostic,” said MCEG head of content Barbara Wall. She noted that most streaming players these days are looking to control all rights — film, TV as well as ancillary plays, like publishing.
That is the setup Morgan Creek brass plan to pursue — ideally teaming on each title with one distributor that can do both TV/digital and film. Having a single partner also would be helpful when strategizing on talent — whether an actor from a movie reboot would also continue in the role on a potential TV series.
Robinson said the company would welcome Jim Carrey to reprise one of his signature roles as Ace Ventura. The current concept eyed for an Ace Ventura reboot is “a baton-handing,” Wall said, a long-lost son or daughter of Ace possibly showing up at his doorstep and taking over. For Young Guns, where the original movie featured an ensemble of young actors who all went on to become established stars, the goal is to find another group of up-and-comers.
Morgan Creek’s effort to involve original auspices in the new projects extends to behind the camera. Barker has been involved in the pitch for a Nightbreed TV series, while David Cronenberg has been supportive of a Dead Ringers reimagining, Robinson and Wall said, stressing that it is a priority to get the blessing of the original creators for the reboots.
While a number of companies have library content, what sets Morgan Creek apart is that, on all movies the company produced, James G. Robinson also had secured underlying rights, making future exploitation easier. “Given the quality of our library, we are in a unique position among independent content-driven companies to take advantage of the many opportunities this new world presents, thanks to the foresight shown by James Robinson over the past 30 years,” David Robinson said.
Library titles will be important, but that will not be all Morgan Creek will be focusing on. The company is planning for a 50-50 portfolio, with half of its slate consisting of original projects. “We don’t want to take out all titles at once and cannibalize them,” Robinson said.
In addition to TV/digital and film, MCEG is eyeing a range of ancillary exploitation opportunities for its library including short-form content, graphic novels, live productions and all gaming platforms.