Super Mario may be getting another crack at the silver screen. The Wall Street Journal is reporting this week that Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Illumination Entertainment is closing in on a deal to make a full-length animated feature starring Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH:NTDOY) iconic Bowser-busting plumber.
Shares of Comcast and Nintendo haven't moved much since the story broke, and it could be memories of 1993 weighing on Mr. Market. Super Mario Bros. was a theatrical flop 24 years ago. The live-action movie has an abysmal score of 15 on reviews aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, indicating that just 15% of the critics recommended the film. An animated movie for a franchise that dominated the gaming world in 1993 a lot more than it does today may seem like a risky proposition, but that's not the case if you know what Comcast and Nintendo are already working on.
Sorry Mickey, your princess is in another castle
Comcast is also the parent company of the Universal Studios theme parks, and two years ago, Nintendo struck a deal that licenses its characters for themed lands that will go up at Comcast-owned parks in Japan, Florida, and California. Universal Studios Japan in Osaka will be the first to open its heavily themed land in 2020, with stateside parks to follow.
Comcast knows a thing or two about striking intellectual property gold with third-party content. It has been closing the attendance gap with Disney (NYSE:DIS) on both coasts since opening The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A Nintendo-themed land would will be another juggernaut, drawing both young gamers and older nostalgics.
A new movie -- if not a deal for several movies -- is a no-brainer for both parties. It takes time to develop a big-ticket animated feature, and a deal struck now could mean that the rendered flick hits a multiplex near you just as the first Super Nintendo World opens in Japan. Comcast is reportedly budgeting more than $430 million for the ambitious theme park expansion. It will cost a lot less to get a movie out that could have a lasting promotional effect on its theme parks.
There's a big battle taking place between Disney and Comcast for theme park supremacy. Disney is squarely in the lead, and after nearly two decades of phoning it in, we're seeing the House of Mouse starting to dig deep to provide bar-raising attractions and experiences. Comcast's next move is to play a game -- a Nintendo game -- and making sure it can score across various leisure outlets is the only way to win.