The Battle Over The Rights To Terminator 5

Published 6 years ago by

terminator salvation bale worthington john connor marcus wright1 The Battle Over The Rights To Terminator 5

As we near the release of the highly anticipated Terminator Salvation, troubled MGM Studios is hoping to get into the Terminator game by positioning itself to take over the distribution of Terminator 5, part two in the planned new trilogy.  Yep, shock waves are being felt around Hollywood, since Warner Bros. and Sony are distributing next week’s Terminator Film.

Terminator Salvation is opening in a week (May 21, 2009), and Warner Bros. is distributing the film domestically (much like it did with the under-rated Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), while the international release is being handled by Sony.  Halcyon, the production company behind the movie, is planning on creating a new trilogy starting with Salvation and director McG is already talking about potential T5 plot lines.  So it’s a surprise that there may be a battle for the distribution rights.

A little history between MGM and the Terminator franchise: Orion Pictures owned the rights to the first film, then they went bankrupt and MGM picked up the rights (for DVD, etc.).  Before that, production companies Carolco and TriStar Pictures produced and released the legendary sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  Then Cutthroat Island sunk Carolco, and producers Andrew G. Vajna and Mario Kassar had to fight to get the rights to make Terminator 3 with their new company, C2 Pictures.  The company, along with Halcyon, also produce the Fox TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which began airing episodes in early 2008.

Convoluted I know, but that’s how things sometimes work in Hollywood.  When a production company goes bankrupt, the rights get bought up and sometimes split up, too.

After Terminator 3 came out in the summer of 2003, director Jonathan Mostow and writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris were developing a fourth film with MGM Studios interested in distributing the film.  But with Arnold Schwarzenegger now the governator, and apparent infighting in C2 Pictures, Halcyon took over the rights (Vajna and Kassar remain as producers) and MGM got cold feet and backed out of distribution, following a lawsuit between them and Halcyon over the distribution (again convoluted, but that’s the story).  Enter Warner Bros., Sony, director McG, star Christian Bale, and the rest is history.

The deal for Halcyon was that MGM Studios would get 30 days to approve whether or not it would help produce and distribute a Terminator 5 (based on the first draft of the script), which was the same deal they had on the fourth film.  Now that Terminator Salvation is a red hot film (especially since Bale is a big star thanks to The Dark Knight), MGM understandably wants back in the Terminator business.

But there’s another problem: MGM Studios is in financial trouble.  It’s paying $250 million in interest on loans just in 2010, and they have to pay off that debt by 2012 to the tune of a jaw-dropping $3.7 billion.  Add to that, the troubled economy and how it’s affecting all studios, and you can quickly understand both why MGM wants Terminator 5 and why it may not be able to afford it.

It could be about a year before Halcyon presents MGM with the first draft of Terminator 5 and then put a high price tag on the production which could force MGM to pass after their allotted 30 day period.  I’m betting that Warner Bros. and Sony will then get the next crack at it and we’ll see T5 in 2011 or 2012.  Other studios are interested, but I think things will get resolved by then.  We’ll keep you up-to-date on Terminator 5 as it unfolds, and as Terminator Salvation may break some box office records.

Sources: Variety, Deadline Hollywood Daily

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  1. As Vince Mcmahon would say “It’s all about the moonaaaay!”

  2. I don’t care who owns the rights as long as McG is gone.

  3. I don’t care if McG directs it as long as he doesn’t write that draft he already proposed for Terminator 5

  4. Heath,
    You did a great job decoding a veritable Runiks Cube of Hollywood shenannigans.

  5. Everybody wants a “Piece of the action”

    (Star Trek OS, Episode 17)

  6. Gary,

    Thanks! It’s pretty convoluted but crazy, as usual. The old rights to Spider-Man was an even BIGGER mess. Once Sony got through it, all they faced was MGM/UA so they threatened to remake Thunderball with Liam Neeson as Bond (they had the rights to that movie). MGM/UA traded the remaining Spidey rights for that film and Sony made history with Spider-Man.


  7. Can’t wait to see if this new Terminator succeeds or fails…

  8. Let’s begin with a sweeping generalization which I will hopefully later explain,


    The Terminator in 1984 was an excellent if low’ish budget movie and a massive success, and why?, the special effects were very good for the time but not awesome, it was basically just a chase movie so why did it work?. “The idea” “The idea” “The idea” Jim Cameron had a great idea it’s that simple.

    Terminator 2 again a massive success why it was just another chase movie, massive budget and hugely improved special effects, but that wasn’t the key to it’s success. Again it was the “idea” Cameron again had a brilliant “idea”, turn the scenario on it’s head a bit having the big Austrian protect the central protagonist and not trying to destroy him. A real stroke of genius that worked perfectly.

    Terminator 3 really failed on exactly the same premise. No new idea, no spark, Typical hollywood money machine fodder. “Let’s take the best bits of the previous two and it’ll work”. Well as we all know it just didn’t.

    So where could the franchise go but into the post judgement day era, and it really should have worked in mixing the terminator franchise with a Mad Max world. I really enjoyed Salvation but not on any other level than a pretty good action movie, I had no intention of writing a blog about it were it not for the rumours I am already hearing on the web. I just didn’t feel opinionated enough to add my 50 cents to the cloud of noise but now I have to.

    So it seems evident already that Salvation will make a profit, will do well at the box office, well enough to justify a 5th chapter, but already and in no small part because the film has not terminated everything else at the box office there is shear panic about what chapter 5 should be.

    When Mr charlies angels was recruited to deliver terminator 4, I was of the same mind as many that this guy isn’t up to the job, but let’s look at where McG has shown the mythology great respect.

    T600 rubber skin check !
    HK’s check
    Kyle learning how to tie off his shotgun to himself (really subtle nod to the original)
    The Sarah tapes, photo and redheaded wife of connor, chech, check and check !
    Action, chase sequences and lots of explosions check.
    The Connor scar (ok a bit of a clumsy “look, look we expain that too” moment)

    Ok he’s made mistakes, the brilliant cgi Arnie just wasn’t that brilliant, destroyed city vista’s are great but not if they are flanked by obviously 50 yr old forests (paint them out in post, you lazy fool, if concrete doesn’t survive a nuclear blast neither does timber). The marcus character was a bit of a weak idea, but overall it was far better than chapter 3 in the franchise but not a batman begin’s reboot moment.

    The news on Terminator 5 is truely terrifying. A time travelling john Conner, Hk’s travelling through time, Robert Patrick as a scientist obviously designing the t-1000 (Alien 3 anyone?). If even one of these rumours hold’s any water what it tells me is the money men are saying…

    “T4 isn’t going to make us a boat load of cash PANNNICCCC, copy the old films, bring in the people from the old films, travel through time, do anything to make it rock”

    Any respect for the timeline of the original trilogy that was shown in T4 would be terminated, trampled over and crushed underfoot worse than any damage to the poxy little T.V series cash in “Sarah Connor Chronicles” ever did.

    Show some balls McG stick to your gun’s progress the franchise in the post judgement day era, do no capitulate to money driven fools who wish to patronise the audience with “you just want a robot chasing someone in present day L.A really don’t you, ok we’ll go back to that formulae”