$130 million sounds like what the effects shots on the latest Indiana Jones movie cost, or how much it cost to build the Mount Doom set for Lord of the Rings. Small potatoes, right? But when Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson submitted that figure as the budget for their planned 3D animation adaptation of the comic strip Tintin, they were given a flat, resounding, no.

You've got to pity the poor production assistant who had to deliver that memo, right? Spielberg had been planning the project since 1983, when his Amblin Entertainment was based at Universal; the project would have been co-financed by Paramount, which is the parent company of Spielberg's DreamWorks, and Universal. Now Spielberg's in an even more awkward situation. As The Los Angeles Times explains it, Spielberg may wind up asking Paramount to finance the movies, even though he's just finished separating his Dreamworks company from Paramount as a parent company.

The problem with the Tintin project overall, apparently, is that Spielberg and Jackson would take about 30% of the movie's profits between the two of them, leaving just about nothing for the studio that finances it. That's the kind of bank you can demand when you get that famous, apparently, but also the kind of profit sharing that makes studios anxious. According to the LAT, the movie would have had to gross over $400 million worldwide for the two studios to just break even.

The LA Times story explains the whole situation well, and doesn't suggest whether or not Paramount will take the deal to finance the whole thing. It really is a huge gamble-- Jackson and Spielberg consistently make money, but not huge enough amounts of money to make the adaptation of a Belgian comic strip a sure thing. You can't blame Universal for tightening their belts, even it if required saying no to two of Hollywood's biggest directors.

UPDATE: Paramount Pictures has come through. Shortly after being denied by Universal Paramount stepped up and gave Spielberg anything and everything he wants. He's Spielberg after all.

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