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Why A Grand Theft Auto Movie Is Unlikely To Happen

"We'd want to have complete creative control."


Grand Theft Auto is one of the most popular and successful video game franchises ever, but to date, no movie based on the series has been made. In a new interview with TheWrap, Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick said one of the reasons why is because the company doesn't want to hand creative control to a different company.

If a GTA movie were to happen, Take-Two would want to fund it itself to have control, Zelnick said. The company has the money to do this, but its expertise is video games, not movies.

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"Part of it is, if we were to do something like that, we'd want to have complete creative control to make sure we expressed [GTA] in the way we wanted--and that would mean we'd need to finance that motion picture," Zelnick said. "While we have the balance sheet to do it, we don't have the corporate expertise to do it, because only a handful of people inside Take-Two have ever worked in that business. I'm one of them. But that's not what we do for a living."

Zelnick previously served as the president and chief operating officer of 20th Century Fox where he oversaw production and distribution of numerous movies. He was only 32 years old when he was running Fox's film business.

Also in the interview, Zelnick said GTA is the "most valuable intellectual property ever created by mankind." Owning and controlling the franchise and its future direction is very important to Take-Two, which is why Take-Two doesn't want to let an outside company make a movie.

"Are we really going to let go of that and hope that someone--no matter how talented they are--will do a really good job with it?" Zelnick said.

The interviewer suggested that Take-Two is missing out on money by refusing to make a GTA movie, adding that George R.R. Martin struck a lucrative deal with HBO for Game of Thrones. That might have been a smart business move, but Zelnick pointed out, "George Martin's books are not worth what Grand Theft Auto is worth."

Zelick is saying almost exactly what Take-Two president Karl Slatoff said back in 2013. At the time, Slatoff said a movie based on GTA could make a lot of money, but it might be a bad idea in the long run.

Film and TV executives have approached Take-Two over the years about making a GTA movie, but the company has always said no--and that doesn't appear to be changing soon.

Rockstar Games cofounder Dan Houser said in 2011 that Rockstar has "explored" numerous Grand Theft Auto movie deals, but has yet to be convinced to bring the series to the big-screen.

In 2017, Zelnick told MCVUK that Take-Two would consider allowing outside studios to make movies based on its franchises, but only if Take-Two could have some kind of creative control. "We have licensed a couple of titles for motion picture production and we don't have much more to say about that yet," Zelnick said at the time.

The newest GTA game, 2013's GTA V, has shipped more than 115 million copies. That makes it among the most successful video games in history. By comparison, Wii Sports--which was bundled with the Wii--has sold 82.88 million copies.

A movie based on BioShock, which is developed by Take-Two's 2K label, was in the works with multiple different directors but series creator Ken Levine ultimately killed it.

A Max Payne movie starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis was released in 2008. The movie didn't score well with critics, but it opened to No. 1 and it ended up making $85 million against a reported $35 million budget. Take-Two bought the Max Payne series from Remedy in 2002 for $34 million, but the situation surrounding the deal to make this movie are unclear.

Movies based on video games have a history of being mediocre or worse, and that comes down to a number of factors. Still, they continue to be made. There are currently movies based on Uncharted, Sonic the Hedgehog, Call of Duty, Watch Dogs, The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid, Mario, and Monster Hunter in various stages of production.

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