Looks like the process of studios scrutinizing spending on films in development is a process that will continue into 2012. Disney put Lone Ranger on hold last year when the budget escalated to over $250m, and Warner Bros. started looking keenly at the budget for Arthur & Lancelot in mid-December.

Now the production offices for the live-action Akira have reportedly been closed and the film put on hold while WB figures out how much the film is really going to cost, and decides whether that money will be well-spent.

THR reports that the Vancouver production offices are closed and that the film “is being shut down in the face of casting and budgetary issues.”

Reportedly director Jaume Collet-Serra and producers will spend the next two weeks working on the script to bring the budget down — note that the budget was already cut down by half when Collet-Serra was first hired. That brought it down below $100m.

WB is said to want to spend roughly $60-70m on the film, because it isn’t a movie with stars. Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart are the big names so far, and they certainly won’t be able to sell this movie in a big way, especially internationally. Actors like Michael Pitt and Toby Kebbell have been rumored for Tetsuo, but apparently that character isn’t cast yet.

At that price point I’ve got to wonder why they’re bothering to make Akira at all. This isn’t a cheap movie, and it isn’t one that will really be sold with star power — it will be sold with spectacle. You can’t make serious spectacle for $60m these days. (That’s actually a lie, but on the studio level, with all the budget excesses that are built-in, I don’t think Akira-sized spectacle is possible for $60m.)

Then again, many would say that Warner Bros. is already not really making Akira, but some highly mutated alternate form of the story. For $60m maybe it can be about a suburban neighborhood bicycle gang, rather than urban motorcyclists?

This isn’t the first time Akira has been at the brink of death — multiple incarnations of the film have been in development over the past few years. THR does quote one ‘insider’ saying “It’s a very resilient movie… Warner Bros. just won’t let it die.”

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