THR BERLIN – Constantin is pushing ahead with its adaptations of Cassandra Clare’s best-selling Mortal Instruments franchise and plans to restart production on the second film in the series, The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes, next year.
Constantin slammed the brakes on City of Ashes, which had already begun production, after the first film in the planned franchise, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, underperformed at the box office.
City of Bones, starring Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower, opened to $14 million over its first five-day weekend and grossed about $31 million domestically for Sony/Screen Gems. But the film, which was also critically panned, had a reported $60 million budget, with Sony putting up an estimated $60 million more to promote the film's release.
Nevertheless, Martin Moszkowicz, Constantin Film’s head of film and TV, said Clare’s massive fan base has responded positively to the adaptation and that Constantin is determined to continue the franchise.
"The fan response, from the blogosphere and the thousands of mails we have received, has encouraged us to keep going,” Moszkowicz told The Hollywood Reporter. “It's been overwhelmingly positive, in contrast to some other YA titles.”
Moszkowicz said international returns for City of Bones means the first film’s worldwide take is now close to $100 million but admits box-office revenue was below Constantin’s forecasts.
“We are analyzing what we did wrong with the first film -- particularly with the positioning and marketing -- and what changes we have to make. We are working with a great group of people to reposition the franchise [for City of Ashes].”
Moszkowicz suggested one reason for City of Bones’ misfire may have been a marketing campaign that was too narrowly focused on teenage fans, to the detriment of Clare’s 20- and 30-something readers.
“The readers of Mortal Instruments are older than you might think,” he said. “That may have been one issue in our marketing, that we focused too much on a very young audience segment."
What exactly this will mean for City of Bones is unclear. In addition to studying its marketing mistakes, Constantin will be picking through the Harald Zwart-directed feature to see if the script, casting or style needs to be tweaked for City of Ashes. Sigourney Weaver had been attached to join the cast of the Mortal Instruments sequel.
variety Constantin board member Martin Moszkowicz told Variety: ”We are analyzing exactly what went wrong, and that needs some time. We’ll go back to the drawing board, and we’ll work on the screenplay; we’ll work on the elements of the movie; and then we’ll budget it.”
Zwart may return as the helmer of “City of Ashes.” ”We are talking to him and others. At the moment there is no director attached,” Moszkowicz said. ”It also depends on his professional availability of course.”
Moszkowicz said that Constantin “strongly believes” in the franchise, which is adapted from a series of best-selling books for young adults by Cassandra Clare. The books have sold 26 million copies, and Constantin also has the rights to other Clare young adult franchises, including three-book series “Infernal Devices,” and the upcoming five-book series “The Magisterium,” which is co-written with the author of “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” Holly Black. The first book in the “Magisterium” series, “The Iron Trial,” will be published next year.
“We believe strongly in her and the world that she has brought to the readers, but we feel that the movie obviously under-performed. Something was wrong there, and we are trying to make it right the next time,” Moszkowicz said.
Changes to the marketing strategy are in the cards, including the target demo. “Maybe we have targeted too young an audience,” he said. “They are very outspoken, especially in the social media world; they are extremely active. But the readers of the books are from 14 to 34 — that’s the main age group — and maybe some of them had issues with how it was marketed. We need to go behind that, and find out exactly what it was.
“It is an ongoing discussion that we are having, and it is not done. We haven’t made a final decision. But we will only move forward — and we plan to move forward — when we feel we are going to get it right,” Moszkowicz said.
Although the intention is to shoot the film sometime next year, it is not carved in stone.
“That is the plan, but it is not a given,” Moszkowicz said. “We believe in that franchise, and we would like to do that, but we need to get it right.”