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DreamWorks nabs Need For Speed movie rights

You all look like loyal readers, so we’re going to take for granted the fact that you recall this piece we wrote detailing EA’s ongoing efforts to find a major Hollywood studio to purchase the film rights to the publisher’s Need For Speed arcade racing series. Though at the time it seemed likely that the rights would go to Sony Pictures, Paramount or Warner Bros., Deadline is reporting that DreamWorks has managed to walk away with the prize. Though the Deadline piece fails to specify the particulars of the EA/DreamWorks agreement, this Chicago Tribune article estimated that the gaming company would be seeking bids “within the low-seven figure range.”

As for information on the now informally in-production film, Deadline offers the following:

Brothers George and John Gatins developed the original story with George writing the feature’s screenplay, Dreamworks said in a release. EA will produce along with John Gatins and Mark Sourian. Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) is attached to direct. The project has a target production start date for early next year for a 2014 release.

You may notice that nowhere in that blurb does Deadline mention the official titles of any of the Need For Speed games. Nor does anyone else reporting this information. While we don’t know the specifics of the agreement between EA and DreamWorks, it doesn’t seem like the latter firm is planning to base its hypothetical Need For Speed film on any particular series entry, so much as the overarching concepts of Need For Speed as a whole. Y’know, novel ideas like “cars” and “driving” and “police chases” — the kind of stuff you almost never see in a Hollywood film.

Sarcasm? Absolutely. The more we hear of this agreement, the more it seems that DreamWorks has acquired the Need For Speed rights simply so it could have a recognizable brand name to attach to an upcoming Fast And Furious rip-off. Normally it wouldn’t make any fiscal sense to make the film a “video game movie,” but there’s enough demographic overlap within the Need For Speed and Fast And Furious fanbases to justify the expense. Plus, these fans aren’t exactly the most discerning cinephiles in existence. Mention Un Chien Andalou to a teenager standing in line for either a new Need For Speed release or a Fast And Furious film and you’ll either get confused stares or threats of jingoist violence — and I say that as the guy who gushed about the next Need For Speed game only a week ago.

Point being: This is a canny, if cynical move on the part of both DreamWorks and EA. The former gets a name brand to push a likely relatively bland car chase film that it hopes can be the start of a new franchise, while the latter gets a hefty bag of cash and a nice cross-promotional boost for whichever Need For Speed title happens to hit shelves alongside the film. We just wouldn’t put much faith in the idea that this Need For Speed movie is going to be anything you should drop real cash on.

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