That iconic kids movie franchise you like is coming back in style. The franchise, in this case, is Doctor Dolittle, and it's coming back in style because A+-list star Robert Downey, Jr. will be reportedly joining in the title role. The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle went to Universal Pictures at auction on the heels of a record-breaking weekend for Beauty and the Beast.
"Most studios don’t play in the first-dollar gross sandbox anymore, but I’ve heard this was the exception, a throwback auction where the ask was a first-dollar gross outlay around 25% on a film that will carry an event-film budget possibly north of $160 million."
To put this in human terms: Downey, Jr. will receive 25% of every dollar that the film earns, starting with the first dollar. That means that he doesn't wait for a recoup of production costs, marketing costs, or indeed anything else. Traditionally, this hasn't lately been afforded to actors or directors unless they play a major role in securing financing for a movie. (A big self-bet is why Hangover director Todd Phillips is currently sitting on a Scrooge McDuck-level of earning for those films.) So the best explanation is that Universal feels that Downey, Jr. is such a draw on his own merits that he will just magically make audiences appear at the box office.
This doesn't seem like a terrible bet. Downey, Jr.'s last four franchise movies have all grossed over $400 million. His last Sherlock film took in a relatively paltry $183 million per BoxOfficeMojo. But he's by no means a sure bet. The only one of those movies he's personally carried was the original Iron Man, in which he was admittedly a revelation. Then, too, he benefitted from the dream team writer-director combo of Jon Favreau, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Otsby.
So we'll see. But Doctor Dolittle is a classic, and we deserve to have it back. Why not, after all. It's not our money.