By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com March 10, 2011 at 2:13AM
It's not the easiest thing, in a business dominated by multi-billion-dollar behemoths that have been running for the best part of a century such as Paramount, Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox, to establish a new film studio and distributor from scratch. Summit has been making a good fist of it in the past few years, with both a Best Picture Oscar winner in "The Hurt Locker" and a highly profitable mega-franchise in the "Twilight" series, but CBS Films, established around the some time, hasn't had the same success.
Releasing their first film a year ago, the execrable "Extraordinary Measures," the fledgling company has gone from flop to flop, with rom-com "The Back Up Plan" and actioner "Faster" both disappointing at the box office, while last weekend's teen fodder "Beastly" didn't fare much better, opening to $11 million despite the presence of supposed next-big-thing Alex Pettyfer. The only light has come from the Jason Statham actioner "The Mechanic," which, while grossing a relatively meager $40 million, was acquired by the company for only $5 million, which should turn a decent profit.
This model seems to be the company's future -- the studio doesn't currently have a single film in production or post-production. They have, however, just picked up the US rights to a project that seems to be far, far more promising than anything they've yet released. Deadline reports that the company has acquired "Gambit," the remake of the 1966 Michael Caine/Shirley Maclaine romantic caper comedy that's been in the works for over a decade.
Names like Hugh Grant, Ben Kingsley, Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Aniston were all linked to the project over the years, along with directors P.J. Hogan and Doug Liman, but the film will now provide the first leading-man role for Colin Firth following his Oscar-winning success in "The King's Speech." He'll star as an art curator who teams up with a Texan rodeo queen (to be played by Cameron Diaz) to rip off the richest man in England. Michael Hoffman, director of "One Fine Day" and "The Last Station" is at the helm, and, most excitingly, the film's using a script by Joel and Ethan Coen, who wrote it in one of their rare writer-for-hire gigs years ago -- indeed, the film would mark the first time since Sam Raimi's "Crimewave" in 1987 that someone other than the Coens have directed one of their scripts.
Filming's not set to get underway until May, so we won't see this on screens until 2012 but the signs are pretty good on this (even if we'd prefer someone with a better track record than Hoffman at the helm). The only question is if CBS can overcome the marketing hurdles they've struggled with before -- but it's certainly the hottest prospect they've had on their slate to date.