In the latest installment of streaming services readying their incredibly expensive artillery for the coming war, Apple hopes to own the next Christmas classic with “A Christmas Carol” starring Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell. Variety reported that Apple won a bidding war against Netflix, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, and others for an unknown price, with sources citing total fees for talent alone at over $60 million.
That would make for a production budget of easily over $100 million. And at those prices, Christmas is for streaming.
Film versions of “A Christmas Carol” has been produced, revived, and rebooted countless times. Charles Dickens published the novella in 1843, and it’s long been in public domain as is the first adaptation, “Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost,” which was released in 1901. The last time a major studio took on the property was 2009, when Robert Zemeckis made the 3D “A Christmas Carol” for Universal, starring Jim Carrey. That film was a disappointment; it made $325 million worldwide on a $200 million budget.
Since cable became ubiquitous, TV has owned the crowded Christmas movie field. Like kids movies — a genre indisputably owned by Disney — these films are the rare examples of movies people want to watch over and over again, even if it is just once a year.
You can count on NBC to show “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and TNT/TBS to show “A Christmas Story.” Freeform the former ABC Family offers its 25 Days of Christmas marathon, in 2017 Hallmark Channel premiered a jaw-dropping 33 original Christmas movies, and IFC celebrated the 30th anniversary of “Die Hard” last year with a daylong marathon of the franchise on Christmas Day.
But in a sea of endless choices, only a select few like “Home Alone” which Disney+ plans to “reimagine”, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and “The Santa Clause” become required annual viewing. That number also includes “Elf,” which also turned former SNL cast member Ferrell into a genuine movie star in 2003 and catapulted young director Jon Favreau. It made $220 million worldwide on a $33 million budget; last year, it drew AMC’s biggest audience for 2018 and ranked #29 among best-selling DVDs. It’s also a regular feature on the Christmas carousel on Apple’s iTunes.
But even with Farrell and Reynolds, in 2019 studios would likely start to feel a little less jolly at the prospect of making a Christmas movie that would need to deliver some $400 million worldwide before it saw a profit. For Apple, which is very much willing to spend hundreds of millions to establish its place in the streaming firmament, and potentially create a holiday classic that could retain subscribers for years to come, it looks like a good deal.
Unlike Ebeneezer Scrooge before his ghost-inspired transformation, Apple isn’t afraid to spend tons of money. The company has won a bidding war for a new take on A Christmas Carol from Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell. Netflix, Warner Bros., and Paramount were all vying for the movie, but it was Apple who emerged the victor, agreeing to large chunks of change for Reynolds and Ferrell, ensuring that they’ll both have happy holidays.
THR has the scoop on Apple scoring a big win with A Christmas Carol. Even though Charles Dickens’ immortal holiday classic has been adapted to the screen over and over again, interest in this project was at an all-time high, likely due to the talent involved. Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds will both produce and star in the project, which is being billed as a live-action musical.
The report indicates that “Apple moved aggressively as it seeks to make an impact in the original features space.” While we don’t know the official numbers behind the deal, Variety has some info that sheds a little light on the matter. At one point, Netflix was in the lead to snap up the rights to the film. Reynolds was asking for $35 million and Ferrell wanted around $25 million. Apple coming out the victor here and besting Netflix strongly implies they offered Reynolds and Ferrell even more dough.
The Variety report adds that Apple came in and “blew everyone out of the water.” They also allowed the filmmakers to retain the rights to the original music for the movie, as well as agreeing to have the film’s copyright to revert back to the filmmakers in about 20 years – something that almost never happens. In short, Apple really, really wanted to get their hands on A Christmas Carol, and were willing to do whatever it took to make it happen.
There’s no word on which characters Ferrell and Reynolds will be playing, or how this adaptation might differ from previous incarnations. Even the musical element isn’t new – both A Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Scrooge with Albert Finney added songs to the Dickens story. In A Christmas Carol, miserly jerk Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who give him glimpses of his past, present, and future, all in the name of changing his wicked ways – just in time for Christmas. Sean Anders and John Morris, the team behind the Daddy’s Home films, are set to write and direct this new take.
Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds are set to star in a musical reimagining of A Christmas Carol. The two actors are developing the musical based on Charles Dickens' classic holiday story. As for who Reynolds and Ferrell will play in the movie, that is unclear at this time since it looks like the project is still in the beginning stages of development. Sean Anders and John Morris, known for the Daddy's Home movies, are on board to write and direct the musical.
The musical take on A Christmas Carol is currently being shopped around to various studios. Charles Dickens' original story centers on the miserable Ebenezer Scrooge as he is being visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. The story has been adapted countless times, with many of them using the source material as a rough guide. Bill Murray's Scrooged is a perfect example and anything coming from Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds is going to be pretty weird. So, we're probably not going to see something that follows Dickens' story exactly.
Will Ferrell can currently be seen in the Between Two Ferns movie, which premiered on Netflix today. He was also recently heard in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, and he is all set to star in Downhill, which is a remake of the 2014 Swedish movie Force Majeure. Fans have been begging Ferrell to reunite with John C. Reilly for Step Brothers 2, but he and his co-star seem to want to leave the original movie alone, which is more than likely a wise choice since Holmes & Watson wasn't very good, to say the least.
As for Ryan Reynolds, he has also been pretty busy the last few years. The Deadpool franchise has taken the actor to new s and brought the Merc with a Mouth to the mainstream, though many Marvel fans are wondering what the Fox and Disney deal means for the future of the franchise. Whatever the case may be, Reynolds is taking on other projects, including Detective Pikachu and a small role in this summer's Fast and Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw. Should the spin-off get a sequel, Reynolds will probably have a bigger part to play.
Since there is no studio attached to Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds' musical take on A Christmas Carol, there is also no production start date. Everything is in the early stages of development and it could be a while before we end up seeing what the two actors have in mind for the famous holiday tale. Should a studio jump on board in the near future, we could very well see the untitled project by the next holiday season, if everything goes according to plan. The Hollywood Reporter was the first to announce Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell's musical take on A Christmas Carol.