Nintendo Co. is developing a live-action film based on The Legend of Zelda video game franchise, expanding efforts to bring its popular characters to the big screen.
The Kyoto-based entertainment firm wants to release one movie every year, Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto told analysts Wednesday. The upcoming film builds on a decade of internal discussions about film adaptations, an endeavor that scored with The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Released by Universal Pictures in April, the Mario flick generated $1.36 billion in global ticket sales and was the highest grossing film of the year until it was dethroned by Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.
Zelda is among Nintendo’s biggest franchises, with its two most recent titles among the top 10 best-selling Switch games. 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a launch-day title for the Switch and the must-have game that helped propel the console’s early sales. Nintendo will finance more than 50% of the movie production, with Sony Pictures Entertainment also providing funding and handling global distribution.
Nintendo shares rose as much as 6.6% in Tokyo, their biggest intraday gain in almost three years. Nintendo also raised its annual profit forecast on Tuesday, thanks to the weak yen’s boost to earnings and expectations for stronger game sales.
“The Mario movie spurred interest in playing the games,” Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa said at Wednesday briefing. The halo effect of drawing in a wider audience translated into the best game debut in the storied Mario franchise, he added, as Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s October launch snagged sales of 4.3 million units in two weeks. “The movies will have a lasting impact to our videogame business.”
Nintendo said it will produce the Zelda picture with Arad Productions, which has worked on Marvel films including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Furukawa said taking on the additional risk of film production was justified by the wider positive effects of tapping into Nintendo’s deep pool of intellectual property assets.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie provides Nintendo “a blueprint of how to effectively conceive, produce, market and release a video game movie adaptation,” said Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. It now holds the record for biggest video game film adaptation to date, by a large margin.
The company is looking for new revenue streams as its signature Switch hardware is in its seventh year on the market. With its earnings release, Nintendo stuck to a sales forecast of 15 million Switch units in the year through March, a goal that Furukawa warned would be hard to reach.
Analysts said it’s possible Nintendo will be able to surpass its latest financial guidance.
“We believe Nintendo is well set to exceed its latest guide as well,” said Atul Goyal of Jefferies.
Nintendo IP-related revenue, which includes film royalties, more than doubled to ¥55 billion ($366 million) in the six months to September. Executives had previously said that they wanted to explore new ways to expand its IP-related segment, which is still only about 7% of total sales.
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