Can Sony and Sega Score With a 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Movie?

This history of movies based on video games has been especially bleak, but that has not stopped film companies from thinking that the next effort will be different. Sony  (NYSE: SNE  ) and Sega will be the next to try, as the two companies adapt Sonic the Hedgehog for the big screen. 

Though the companies have not specified whether the film will be animated or a combination of animation/CGI and real-life action, the failure of the vast majority of video game adaptations suggests it has little chance to be successful. On Box Office Mojo's list of the 10 top-grossing movies based on video games, only Lara Croft: Tomb Raider broke $100 million in domestic box office sales. The next film on the list, the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, stalled out at $90 million in the U.S., despite huge expectations and an estimated $200 million budget. 

Looking down the Box Office Mojo list, the numbers go from not that good to really bad very quickly. Here's a look at the 10 highest-grossing video game adaptations in the U.S. since 1995.

Title Domestic Gross
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider $131,168,070 (2001)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time $90,759,676 (2010)
Pokemon: The First Movie $85,744,098 (1999)
Mortal Kombat $70,454,098 (1995)
Laura Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life $65,660,196 (2003)
Resident Evil: Afterlife $60,128,566 (2010)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse $51,201,453 (2004)
Resident Evil: Extinction $50,648,679 (2007)
Silent Hill $46,982,632 (2006)
Pokemon: The Movie 2000 $43,758,684 (2000)

If you were to follow this down to No. 20, you would find the truly sad $20 million take of the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie. That was a poorly executed film, but it was based on characters that were much larger than Sonic ever was, and certainly many times larger than the erstwhile hedgehog is now.

A few of these movies -- specifically the Resident Evil series -- have been mildly profitable due to having relatively low budgets, but there are no clear major success stories.

Jason Hellmann, Daniel Kline, and Jake Mann debated whether there is demand for a movie based on the Sega character -- and whether the project has any chance to succeed -- on Business Take, the show that gives you the Foolish perspective on the most important business stories of the week.

Why Sonic, why now?
Blame the announcement of the Sonic movie on the success of The Lego Movie. Since that film brought in $256 domestically and another $210 million overseas, anyone owning an even vaguely successful character has seemingly made a movie deal. These include not just the Sonic film, but a movie on the Barbie line and one based on marshmallow Peeps, the Easter candy perhaps most famous for being only seasonally available.  

Even with that, the timing of a Sonic movie seems odd, since the most recent Sonic video game title, Sonic Lost World, was only a middling success, selling about 600,000 copies.

"If it fails repeatedly and there is very limited upside, why are they continuing to try?" Kline asked.

One of the reasons is certainly the allure of how well some game titles have sold. With the games themselves being $1 billion franchises, it's tempting for movie companies to try again, even if nearly all past results suggest failure is likely.

Will you be buying tickets to a Sonic the Hedgehog movie? Watch the video below and share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Daniel B. Kline

Daniel B. Kline is an accomplished writer and editor who has worked for the Microsoft's Finance app and The Boston Globe, where he wrote for the paper and ran the business desk. His latest book "Worst Ideas Ever" (Skyhorse) can be purchased at bookstores everywhere.

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