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Masters of the Universe Movie: Netflix Halts Development After Spending $30 Million; Mattel Shopping He-Man Film

Netflix has dropped a planned Masters of the Universe movie from its development slate after spending roughly $30 million on the project, which the streamer acquired from Sony in 2019. Variety broke the news, reporting that some sources pegged the overall development costs at north of $50 million, noting that Netflix has had to pay to hold talent.

Aaron and Adam Nee, the filmmaking brothers who directed the hit Sandra BullockChanning Tatum movie The Lost City, had been developing the project with producer Todd Black and Mattel’s Robbie Brenner. When they proposed a revised budget of $150 million — scaled back from $200 million, and on top of the $30 million Netflix had already spent on development costs — Netflix balked and declined to greenlight the film, allowing Black to shop it elsewhere.

Black then pitched the project to Universal but the studio passed on the project in recent weeks, forcing the producer back to square one — finding a buyer. That could become a little bit easier if Mattel’s Barbie breaks the $100 million mark at the domestic box office this weekend. The company’s CEO Ynon Kreiz has used the red carpet for Barbie to tout the value of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe, um, universe, which is led by the character of He-Man, a muscular blonde god who often battles Skeletor.

“It’s as big as Marvel and DC,” Kreiz told the New Yorker recently. “It’s hundreds of pages of characters and sorcerers and vehicles and weaponry — you name it. And then you flip through the pages, and here’s a movie, and here’s a movie, and here’s a TV show. . . . it’s endless!

Kyle Allen (A Haunting in Venice) had been attached to play He-Man, and though he’s reportedly still attached, don’t be surprised if whoever takes on this project decides to do their own thing with it, including hiring their own director(s).

Netflix execs are said to remain fans of the Nee brothers — the two sides even explored shooting two Masters of the Universe movies back-to-back to save on costs — but in the end, the project was simply too expensive at a time when Netflix has been clutching its pursestrings a little bit tighter. Though the streamer’s content spend has remained flat over the last two years at $17 billion, it isn’t shelling out for lavish packages like it once was, and with a proposed budget of $150 million-plus, execs felt like it was time to grab the Sword of Power and cut bait on Masters of the Universe.

Netflix is hardly alone in that regard, as this project has been in development at two different studios — Sony and Warner Bros. — since 2007, with directors such as McG and Jon M. Chu circling it at various points, though it was not to be. We’ll see if this project ever gets made, but as someone who grew up a He-Man fan, it’s not one I would advise a studio to pursue, in case the box office performance of the latest Dungeons & Dragons movie wasn’t enough of a deterrent.

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