The Narnia fan base was elated to receive news recently the proposed fourth movie in the Chronicles of Narnia feature movie series now has financial backing from a major studio. On August 9, the official Narnia.com website announced that Sony’s Tri-Star and Entertainment One (eOne) would be joining The Mark Gordon Company and The C. S. Lewis Company to finance and distribute The Silver Chair.
It has been known for quite some time The Mark Gordon Company was working with The C. S. Lewis Company in the early planning stages for the movie after Walden Media failed to pick up their option to make another film. Despite blockbuster box office figures, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader failed to meet the expectations of producers who had thought they had another Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter on their hands. Disney withdrew after a big budget Caspian didn’t show high enough profits. Fox picked up the franchise for Dawn Treader, but they, too, balked after the more-reasonably-budgeted movie didn’t quite perform as desired.
In 2007, I was involved writing a news blog beginning shortly after Disney announced the release date for Prince Caspian, and have followed the movies closely ever since. It has been a roller coaster ride, to be sure! See below for a bit of history about the franchise, including what we know about The Silver Chair so far. Other articles on Narnia and the upcoming movie are in the works, so stay tuned!
2001 After lengthy discussion with Douglas Gresham of The C. S. Lewis Company, Walden Media acquires the rights to film The Chronicles of Narnia.
2003 A new website calling itself NarniaWeb.com is born, the largest and best known Narnia fan site.
2004 Filming for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe begins in June. A screenwriter is commissioned to write a second movie script as early as September, over a year before the first film’s release.
2005 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is released in December. Even before the release, there is talk about making Prince Caspian if The Lion is a success.
2006 As early as February, an official announcement is made that Prince Caspian will move forward.
2007 Filming for Prince Caspian begins in February.
2008 Prince Caspian released in the United States in May.
As May rolled along, it was obvious the box office numbers were disappointing, but there was no indication of what was about to happen to the franchise. In early June, talk was about the Dawn Treader being filmed in Mexico at the studio where Titanic was made. As the movie began its second week in Australian theaters in June, Douglas Gresham was talking confidently about more films being made. As the movie begins to hit Europe in the last half of the month, it is reported Will Poulter has been already been cast as Eustace Scrubb for Dawn Treader. Early in July, an early Dawn Treader script surfaces. In August, Disney officially moved the release date for Dawn Treader back to May 7, 2010. It had originally been scheduled for June, 2009. In October, we were getting rumors the filming and release dates were being pushed back even further. In November and December, we were told about huge budget cuts to the film. Then, fans got their Christmas surprise.
On Christmas Eve, 2008, we received news Disney was dropping the franchise. I was shocked. As I put it in an article I wrote just after Christmas: “Disney has decided that the Narnia franchise is not worthy of rescue…. They have abandoned ship. Which seems strange, since the ship is not sinking.” Walden Media immediately began to look for another partner, affirming their commitment to the Narnia franchise.
2009 By the end of January, Fox had signed an agreement to partner for the Dawn Treader, contingent on script and budget approval. At the beginning of March, a release date of December 2010 had been confirmed. Narnia was back on track. Filming began in July.
2010 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is released in December. Inclement weather and financial concerns are blamed for a slow box office start, but the numbers begin to pick up by early January, leading me to comment: “What is of interest to those who would love to see the franchise continue is that Dawn Treader‘s daily numbers are now consistently well ahead of Prince Caspian at this stage in its run. It is doubtful Dawn Treader will be able to match the domestic total of the second film, but certainly will be more profitable given the much more reasonable budget…. Given these positive developments, and the assumption that The Silver Chair could be produced with an even more economical budget, I feel confident in predicting that Walden Media and Fox will greenlight a fourth movie soon.”
2011 On January 31, I created a Facebook page titled “Call for Walden Media and Fox to green light The Silver Chair.” I felt certain that this would happen, and the page created quite a buzz in the fan base. But nothing close to a hint of a green light was happening. What was going on? An article published in February said Walden and Fox were talking about a fourth movie, but, as I said then, “talking does not equate to action.” Later on that month, talk was The Magician’s Nephew might be next instead of Silver Chair. This was confirmed by Walden Media President Micheal Flaherty in March. However, no more firm news about the project was reported until October, when Douglas Gresham confirmed Walden had pulled out of the franchise.
Why things fell apart has been debated and speculated about until this present day. Some say Gresham insisted on doing Silver Chair, but Walden wanted to do Magician’s Nephew. I can see how that might have been the breaking point, but I have no confirmation on that. Because the agreement with Walden called for a seven year moratorium on making another Narnia film if Walden let their option lapse, this means (as I understand it) another movie cannot be released until December of 2017. This is apparently so another producer could not ride on Walden’s coattails, making the new producer liable to share the profits with them. I am not a lawyer, so take that with a grain of salt.
2013 In October, it was confirmed the Mark Gordon Company made a deal with the C. S. Lewis Company to produce The Silver Chair. (I promptly changed the name of my Facebook page to Support The Mark Gordon Company’s bid to produce The Silver Chair.) In December, the official Narnia.com website published a Press Release that stated David Magee was hired to write the screenplay.
2016 Finally the news Tri-Star and eOne are on board.
So, what will this next movie be like? That waits to be seen. I will share my thoughts, and share any important news, as we play the waiting game. We are sure to be in for quite a ride… again.