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Published On: Wed, May 18th, 2016

Is this ‘Tetris’ movie for real? Too many key blocks are missing to be sure

LOS ANGELES — If you read the headlines out of Cannes Tuesday — “the Tetris movie is happening!” — you’d think it’s just a matter of months before the big-screen bricks started falling before your eyes.

And if that makes you smack your keyboard in frustration, here’s the straight piece you’ve been waiting for: Nothing is “happening.” At least, not yet.

Tetris is several key blocks from becoming a real movie, and if these guys do make it, that doesn’t mean you’ll actually see it at a theater near you.

We’ll get into the why of all that in a minute. But first, why are we talking about this movie that was first announced two years ago and still has no major talent attached?

Two reasons: A strategically timed press release (below), and the Internet’s insatiable appetite for being reminded that things exist.

The Tuesday press release, from a pair of companies that have banded together and definitely want to make a Tetris movie, launched a flurry of headlines Tuesday signaling that Tetris is imminent.

A sampling:

USA Today: Movie based on Tetris starts shooting in 2017
Coming Soon: Tetris Movie Will Shoot in China in 2017
Screen Crush: We’re Sorry To Inform You a ‘Tetris’ Movie Trilogy Is Happening
Gizmodo: Tetris is Going to Be a Movie Trilogy and Someone Needs to Stop This Shit Immediately

But after a close look at the wording and a follow-up conversation with co-producer Larry Kasanoff, head of Threshold Entertainment, Mashable remains skeptical that a Tetris trilogy really is “falling into place.” 

In fact, there are some pretty gnarly holes to fill before cameras roll.

Here’s what’s in place, and what isn’t:

The companies

What’s lockedThreshold Entertainment Group, which bought rights from video game publisher Blue Planet Software, Inc., and first announced intentions to make it in 2014; and Seven Star Works, a Chinese media investing company, which recently jumped in with a pile of money and plans to make Tetris a Chinese co-production. 

The two announced their joint venture, Threshold Global Studios, Tuesday.

Image: Threshold Entertainment

Key missing pieces: A major Hollywood studio, or even a minor one, to help market and distribute Tetris.

Kasanoff told Mashable that they’ve not yet shopped the project to the Hollywood majors, but that Threshold Global hopes to find a U.S. distribution partner later on — which isn’t without its own pitfalls.

“Making a movie independently is like moving out of your parents’ house,” Kasanoff told Mashable. “The good news is you have the freedom to put whatever you want in the refrigerator, but the bad news is you can’t depend on it just being full; you have to stock it yourself.”

Which brings us to …

The money

Image: Getty Images

What’s locked: The release says an $80 million budget is “attached.” Is that money earmarked and socked away in a bank somewhere? Sounds like it’s a little more complicated than that — Kasanoff, who’s at the Cannes Film Festival, would only say that “financing for the movie is tied up and secured; now we begin the process of foreign sales.”

Key missing pieces: And that is the reason for Tuesday’s press release. It’s a signal to financiers and foreign sales agents, who are taking pitch meetings in Cannes this week, of an investment opportunity. 

So really, this news was one big “Open for Business” sign.

Cannes isn’t just a film festival — it’s also a market for foreign distributors, who sometimes pre-pay producers for the rights to show their films. That money then gets put toward production and marketing. So really, this news was one big “Open for Business” sign. 

The talent

Seven Stars Chairman Bruno Wu at the 88th Birthday Of TLC Chinese Theater IMAX on June 3, 2015.

Seven Stars Chairman Bruno Wu at the 88th Birthday Of TLC Chinese Theater IMAX on June 3, 2015.

Image: Todd Williamson/Getty Images for SUN SEVEN STARS MEDIA

Who’s locked: Co-producers are Kasanoff, who co-founded Lightstorm with James Cameron and produced the original Mortal Kombat films; and Bruno Wu (above), the Chinese business mogul behind Seven Star Works.

Executive producer is Threshold’s Jimmy Ienner, whose producing credits include the documentary Mindfulness: Be Happy Now, Foodfight! the movie, and homevideos Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers, Lego Atlantic and Bionicle: The Legend Reborn.

There’s also Dane Smith, a VFX producer with a long list of major credits (Transformers, Harry Potter, Deadpool) who “will be responsible for implementing the unique Tetris VFX developed especially for the film.”

Finally, the screenwriter is Michael Apostolina, a novelist and former Miramax creative executive who has been working on multiple writing projects for Threshold.

Key missing pieces: A director or a single castmember.

Though independent film projects seeking financing tend to come with these talent attachments, Tetris is content to rely on the strength of its brand.

The movie itself

Image: DaveonFlickr

What’s locked: “The story has been created,” reads the release — notice it says nothing about a script being complete, because it’s not. 

And that’s it.

Key missing pieces: Everything else.

So to recap:

No director, no script, no studio, no cast, no crew, no liquid capital (that we know of), no outside financing … and no real reason to believe that shooting will indeed begin next year.

To be fair it still could

“The funny thing is, when you announce a movie, people want to know when. And you say ‘When everything comes together,’” Kasanoff told Mashable. “But no one wants to hear that. … So you plan and you say ‘Look, we’ve got the money, and unless something bizarre happens, that’s when we want to do it.’”

Though details of the project itself are also scant, Kasanoff sounds mighty confident that their concept will ultimately work.

“It’s just a phenomenal idea for this brand,” he said. “That’s what motivated this whole thing. And you’ve gotta ask yourself why Tetris has been so successful for so many years; we’ve thought of a really great science fiction movie out of it. I get pitched video-game projects all the time, and we’re very picky about that stuff.”

Ultimately, any of these factors not coming together just so could prevent Tetris — or any movie, really — from being made. Or doom it to the fate of 2012 animated mini-disaster Foodfight!, which, after tens of millions of dollars in financing, casting of Charlie Sheen, Hilary Duff and Eva Longoria and a protracted legal battle, became a straight-to-DVD release.

The producer of that adaptation? Threshold Entertainment. 

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