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Congrats on Dumb and Dumber To, Universal Pictures – Too Bad New Line Is Taking the Franchise Back From You

Why didn’t anyone tell me that Dumb and Dumber To has a post-credits sequence? Seriously, not a single review I read before seeing the film this weekend mentioned a post-credits sequence. Of course, that’s probably because a lot of people could barely make it through the whole film let alone stick with it through the closing credits. However, it turns out if you do stick with it you get an extra scene at the end involving Harry and Lloyd being tracked down and threatened by the diner bully from the first film (you know, the one whose friend rooted from afar, “Kick his ass, Sea Bass!”). The scene ends by teasing the title of the next film (Dumb and Dumber For) and release date (2034). As the guys in the film would say, it’s mostly a goof, a 22 Jump Street-esque reference to how silly another sequel would be while also playfully acknowledging that if it took 20 years to make the second film surely it would take just as long to make the third.

Well, we’re probably not going to have to wait that long. Not only did Dumb and Dumber To perform way above expectations at the box office this past weekend it did so while attracting a mostly young audience, 45% under the age of 25, a rare and hot commodity these days. That’s also a very fickle audience, and given the tepid word-of-mouth they’re giving Dumb and Dumber To (B- on CinemaScore) it seems a likely candidate to fall off somewhat swiftly in the coming weeks. However, Hollywood is a first-weekend economy at this point, and when your movie dang near makes back its entire production budget in 3 days it’s time to talk sequel. Jeff Daniels has indicated he’d be up for it, especially now that his time working on The Newsroom is over, and The Hollywood Reporter says both Daniels and Carrey have options to return for a sequel pending their approval of the script.

If there is to be a third Dumb and Dumber it may not be made by the same people behind the scenes.  This all relates to the somewhat convoluted way that Universal Pictures ended up being the domestic distributor for Dumb and Dumber To.

The First Dumb and Dumber Hits

dumb_and_dumber_tooThe original Dumb and Dumber was made at New Line Cinema back when it was still an independent studio. The film, the directorial debut of future There’s Something About Mary kings The Farrelly Brothers, was a ginormous hit, grossing $127 million domestic on a $17 million budget. That’d be like making $241 million at current ticket prices, which is around as much as Maleficent made this year. It was the 6th highest grossing film of 1994, and the only thing that stopped a sequel from happening was mostly that none of the principles involved were interested, especially Jim Carrey.

Then they made When Harry Met Lloyd

So, eventually New Line Cinema gambled that maybe they could simply make a quick buck off of the Dumb and Dumber brand and related nostalgia, distributing a prequel in 2003, Dumber & Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. Eric Christian Olsen stepped in for Jim Carrey and Derek Richardson for Jeff Daniels. Pretty much nobody from the original Dumb and Dumber was involved, except for Brad Krevoy who was among the credited producers for both the original film and the prequel. Critics hated it, fans didn’t seem to care, and it just barely managed to double its $19 million budget at the worldwide box office.

Then there was going to be a sequel with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels

Of course, time has a way of humbling directors, producers, and actors. Eventually, The Farrelly Brothers and Jim Carrey really needed a hit, and Jeff Daniels was just along for the ride. So, in late 2011, the Farrelly Brothers announced they would be writing and directing a sequel to Dumb and Dumber, and only a couple of months later in early 2012 both Carrey and Daniels were confirmed as returning for the sequel. It was going to be independently financed outside of the studio system with a targeted budget of around $30 million, but Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema (which merged with WB in 2008) would distribute.

Then the sequel died

uni_jim_carrey_burt_wonderstone_130316_wgJim Carrey dropped out due to a perceived lack of sufficient support from WB/New Line Cinema. Not too long after that everything seemed back on track until Carrey’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, another low-budget WB/New Line Cinema production, performed a magical disappearing act at the box office. Suddenly, they wanted out of the dwindling Jim Carrey business, dropping Dumb and Dumber To, basically saying, “We’ve seen this project’s future and it is grim, but good luck to you if you can find some other sucker to distribute it.”

Then it was saved

Well, it only took 8 days to find the other suckers to distribute the sequel, with 3-year-old film production company Red Granite Pictures (founded by the son of the Malaysian Prime Minister) quickly moving in to finance with a budget in the $35-40 million range and selling domestic distribution to Universal Pictures.

Then the lawsuits started flying

The general tone of the lawsuits

Red Granite sued original Dumb and Dumber producers Brad Krevoy and Steve Stabler to prevent them from being involved in the production of the sequel even though they said they had the right of first negations for sequels and remakes. It was the legal equivalent of, “Geeze, those guys again?  They won’t stop calling. Is there any way we can make them stop?” Of course, Krevoy and Stabler countersued, essentially claiming, “We’ll call as often as we want.  We have a contract, you bunch of a-holes.”  That worked itself out in the courts, and Krevoy and Stabler are now listed as Executive Producers on Dumb and Dumber To’s IMDB page.

Now we’re talking about a Dumb and Dumber 3

While those lawsuits grabbed headlines mostly because they made Red Granite look like real life versions of characters from HBO’s Entourage something which went unnoticed is that Universal and Red Granite’s deal was only for one movie.  According to he Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros./New Line only passed on Dumb and Dumber To; they still have the rights to a third installment:

Now, if the franchise continues, it likely will end up back with [New Line chief Toby] Emmerich. Sources say New Line and Warners retained rights to a threequel […] It’s not clear if Red Granite would be part of a threequel, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if New Line and Warners lay off some of the risk.

Although Universal is currently the studio putting Dumb and Dumb To out in theaters in the U.S. and in select foreign markets they’ll probably be squeezed out of a sequel, should one ever happen. Good job turning our movie into a hit, guys. Now, get lost. Ouch.

Of course, all of this is for naught if Dumb and Dumber To falls off worse than expected in coming weeks, and even if it doesn’t Dumb and Dumber To still took 20 years to happen.  So, who knows how long it might take for a third Dumb and Dumber, and beyond the box office you could certainly argue that Dumb and Dumber To simply isn’t quite good enough to warrant a sequel.  These things are always complicated with multiple variables to consider, but as it turns out the people weighing those variables won’t necessarily be the same people who actually made Dumb and Dumber To.

Source: THR

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