'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' Co-Financier MGM Calls The Film A Loss, Wants "Better Economics" For Sequels

John Carter isn't the only write-down being talked about right now. While Disney's recent release is a much bigger financial albatross, with the company being forced to call it a $200m loss, MGM now saying that David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which it co-financed, hit below studio expectations and is "a modest loss."

The studio wanted about 10% better returns on the picture, but the real takeaway here is what this effect this might have on further adaptations of Stieg Larsson's Millennium novels. MGM has the option to co-finance the next two films and is interested in doing, so. But it wants "better economics," which means cheaper films. And that could mean that David Fincher will not direct.

Deadline points to the recap of MGM's recent earnings call, where MGM Holdings CEO Gary Barber said his company is talking to Sony about co-financing The Girl Who Played With Fire, "assuming we can achieve better economics." We don't know what that means, exactly, and it should be kept in mind that MGM's outlay wasn't as significant as Sony's. But with co-financing being an important part of the financial makeup of the project, MGM's reluctance to dive back into a thriller on the same scale as Dragon Tattoo is noteworthy.

We've wondered about David Fincher directing a second and possibly third film in the Millennium series, and when the original film went into development the plan was for Fincher to make the entire trilogy. That was the public plan, at least; I'm not sure how many people ever believed he would really make three Larsson adaptations.

Sony said in January that it does still plan to make the second movie, though it isn't yet greenlit. At that point, Fincher's participation still seemed far less than certain. He's not a director used to working under severe financial cosntraints, and if MGM and Sony both want to reign in the spending on The Girl Who Played With Fire, don't be surprised to see Fincher handing the director's chair over to someone else and staying on as producer. From my perspective, that would be the preferred outcome, anyway, so he can move on to other projects.

The upshot to this report is that MGM also co-financed 21 Jump Street, and is calling that a win. There's also the disclosure that MGM bought back United Artists last year, and "may resume using the United Artists banner to develop and produce new films." (The full story of UA is a long and complicated one, but also a pretty interesting tale, as the banner started off as sort of an early cinematic model of the same plan used for Image Comics.)