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New ‘Mortal Kombat’ movie coming via partnership of Warner units

“Mortal Kombat” is fighting its way back onto the big screen, marking a rare delivery of material from a studio’s own video game division to its sibling film unit.

Warner Bros.’ New Line Cinema unit is partnering with the Burbank studio’s video game unit, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, to adapt for the big screen the tournament fighting series that debuted on video game consoles in 1992. New Line is aiming to produce the film next year and release it in 2013.

Like several other media companies, including Walt Disney Co., Warner has frequently produced its own video games based on film properties, such as June’s “Green Lantern.”

“It’s really important that we show we can bring our game properties to movies instead of just the other way around,” said Warner Home Entertainment President Kevin Tsujihara.

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In 2009, Warner Bros. acquired Mortal Kombat maker Midway Games out of bankruptcy for $49 million. In April, Warner released the ninth Mortal Kombat game, one of the most successful in the series, selling more than 3 million copies.

Some of that success was credited by the studio to a promotional Web series it produced called “Mortal Kombat: Legacy.” The nine-part series, made for about $2 million, was directed by Kevin Tancharoen. Previously known for directing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s unsuccessful “Fame” remake, Tancharoen garnered new attention in 2010 by producing his own short film based on Mortal Kombat, which became a viral hit on YouTube and convinced Warner to let him direct the Internet shorts.

Tancharoen has now been tapped to direct the feature film. New Line President Toby Emmerich said the idea to make the movie came in large part from the work the director did online.

“The new game and the online shorts prompted us to consider a reboot of a brand we hadn’t been actively thinking about,” he said.

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New Line produced two “Mortal Kombat” movies in 1995 and 1997 when it was an independent studio owned by Warner Bros. parent Time Warner and it licensed the rights from Midway. Tancharoen said his new movie, expected to be produced for well under $100 million, will offer a more realistic take on the Mortal Kombat characters, best known for over-the-top killing moves called “fatalities.”

Emmerich and Tsujihara said they hope the next Mortal Kombat game will come out when the movie hits theaters or in a single package along with the DVD or Blu-ray.

Development of a “Mortal Kombat” movie had been held up by litigation between Warner and producer Lawrence Kasanoff, who worked on the two 1990s movies. The studio prevailed in one lawsuit over royalties owed for the years 2000-04, but cases are pending over royalties for 2008 and ownership of the movie rights.

Tsujihara declined to comment on the litigation, but people close to the movie not authorized to discuss the matter publicly said they believed the two sides were close enough to a resolution to move ahead on the project. Kasanoff and his attorney did not return calls requesting comment.

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ben.fritz@latimes.com


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