Hollywood hits restart as more filmmakers venture into video games

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Alex Pham and Ben Fritz take a look at the latest videogame ventures by Hollywood players, which adds to the long and wobbly history of big-screen specialists in the small-screen sector. Here’s an excerpt from the story in today’s Los Angeles Times. -- G.B.

The Hollywood moguls behind such films as ‘The Dark Knight,’ ‘Watchmen’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ are looking for their next blockbuster in a new realm: video games. An increasing number of big shots from the movie business are seeing new opportunities in the $50-billion global interactive entertainment industry. Power producers such as Jerry Bruckheimer and Thomas Tull, as well as hot directors such as Gore Verbinski and Zack Snyder, have all recently dived into the still-growing game market. The hordes descending on Los Angeles this week for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the annual trade show known as E3, testify to the industry’s growing cultural and financial clout. The Hollywood players are diving into games for new creative challenges but also because consumers are continuing to snap them up during the recession even as they cut back on some other media such as movie DVDs. ‘We’re in the entertainment business,’ said Bruckheimer, producer of such action films as ‘Top Gun’ and ‘National Treasure.’ ‘We will entertain you in the theaters, on TV and on your game platforms.’ Some game-industry insiders may feel like they’ve seen this movie before, and it didn’t end well. Hollywood’s love affair with games dates to the 1970s, when Warner Communications bought Pong-maker Atari Inc. In 1982, George Lucas, intrigued by the technical magic involved in making interactive entertainment, started Lucasfilm Games (now called LucasArts), which creates games based on the ‘Star Wars’ and Indiana Jones movie franchises. Six years later, Walt Disney Co. began its own computer game division. Steven Spielberg declared his ardor for games in 1995, creating DreamWorks Interactive in Los Angeles. And media tycoon Sumner Redstone began in the late 1990s to amass shares in Midway Games Inc., the Chicago developer of Mortal Kombat. Happy endings were elusive. Warner shed Atari in 1984 after it bled nearly half a billion dollars. Spielberg sold his studio to Electronic Arts Inc. in 1999. And in November, Redstone liquidated his 87% stake in Midway for a mere $100,000 and claimed $800 million in losses. It’s now in bankruptcy. Only Lucas’ and Disney’s game studios have survived. But this new crop of Hollywood suitors is promising to treat game development right... READ THE REST -- Alex Pham and Ben Fritz RECENT AND RELATED Back from the dead: Will ‘Ghostbusters’ game revive films? EXCLUSIVE: We’ve got the ‘Ghostbusters’ Wii trailer E3 Week: Gore Verbinski talks games and ‘Bioshock’ film A new-look Harley Quinn for ‘Arkham Asylum’ Sci Fi’s ‘holy grail’ project will meld TV and gaming CREDITS: At top, Zack Snyder photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images. The middle image is Gore Verbinski shot by Matt Sayles/Associated Press. At bottom is Jerry Bruckheimer, photo by Seth Wenig/Associated Press. ‘Ghostbusters: The Videogame’ image courtesy of Atari