Why Universal ditched the Dark Tower

Ditching the Dark Tower series. Turning down Guillermo Del Toro’s dream project in 3D. Cowboys and Aliens going in the toilet. Theater revolts over Tower Heist and yet even more Fast and Furious movies green lit.

Who on earth can explain all this? Well, the head of Universal, Ron Meyer, did recently, or at least he tried.

Meyer spoke at the Savanah Film Festival, and as Movieline reports, he said:

“Cowboys and Aliens didn’t deserve better. Scott Pilgrim did deserve better, but it just didn’t capture enough of the imaginations of people.” Budget wise, “Cowboys and Aliens was a big loss. We misfired. We were wrong.”

As for passing on The Dark Tower, and Guillermo Del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness: “We looked at the economics and it just didn’t make sense for us, for what we would have to put out for what we could make back. It didn’t feel secure enough. They’re both good projects, they just were more expensive than made sense for us to spend.”

Addressing 3D, which at least Jeffrey Katzenberg believed would be Hollywood’s magic bullet, not every flick should be in 3D he said, adding, “None of us would be able to do, or afford, what Jim Cameron was able to do with Avatar. Avatar was everything money could buy, and we can’t afford to be in that business… 3D has a limited capacity, but a capacity.”


Finally, Ron Meyer attempted to explain why Universal attempted to field a special video on demand offer with the comedy Tower Heist, where you could watch the movie three weeks after its November 4 release for a cool $59.99.

As you may recall, theater owners revolted, threatening not to play the film. Of course, the studio made a similar mistake with their big screen adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance years ago, and when the theater owners punished Universal by not playing the film, it tanked. (It also didn’t help when director Brett Ratner made a first class fool of himself, losing his gig producing the Oscars not long after the release of Heist).


“If someone’s going to get our movies two weeks after they’re released, then they have to pay a premium for that,” Meyer explained.

“We still think that’s a valid model. Obviously the theater owners didn’t want us to do it; we were led to believe that might work, but I think eventually we will get it to work in conjunction with theater owners.”


Although it was clearly a very unpopular idea, and studios scrambling trying to figure out what the next format for home entertainment will be post DVD, Meyer still believes there are plenty of people willing to pay the “premium price” to see a movie at home. 

“I think there are people that would be willing to pay that price to not have to leave their house and be able to watch that first-run movie while it’s still in theaters.”