‘Everything, Everywhere’ Directors Sign Exclusive 5-Year Deal With Universal

‘Everything, Everywhere’ Directors Sign Exclusive 5-Year Deal With Universal

Fresh off Everything, Everywhere All At Once passing $100 million worldwide (on an over/under $20 million budget), Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, along with producing partner Jonathan Wang, have signed an exclusive five-year deal with Universal. Hopefully, this means that the follow-up to Everything, Everywhere All At Once will be another original (or at least new-to-you adaptation) theatrical feature. Moreover, the Daniels going exclusively with Universal for five years is another feather in Donna Langley’s cap in terms of procuring marquee talent.

The Daniels join Jordan Peele, M. Night Shyamalan and Michael Bay (who recently signed a first-look deal to revive Platinum Dunes) in the Universal dugout. While I have mixed feelings about how and why Chris Nolan left Warner Bros., the next Nolan joint, Oppenheimer, will be one of Universal’s big summer-of-2023 theatricals alongside Despicable Me 4 and Fast X.

Simplistically speaking, the Comcast-owned studio is making a public effort to establish itself as a haven for marquee filmmakers who want to make mid-budget studio programmers without worrying about boosting a given franchise-specific IP or prioritizing a streaming platform. It’s not exactly winning the streaming wars, but Peacock was never presented as the new center of the Comcast universe. Comcast hasn’t set fire to any legacy revenue streams or brands to boost subscriptions.

Likewise, Sony’s first-tv pay window deal with Netflix allows Tom Rothman’s studio to make movies like Bullet Train, Where the Crawdads Sing and The Woman King alongside the Spider-Man flicks. While I would have kept Toby Emmerich and will defend Walter Hamada’s tenure at DC Films, I’m hopeful that David Zsaslov can revive Warner Bros.’ pre-Project Popcorn reputation. As Elvis shows, they can still be a filmmaker-friendly studio that releases more than just DC Comics flicks.

Even with the window-shattering “from theaters to PVOD in 17 days” announcement two years ago, Universal and Focus have been relatively regular Covid-era suppliers of big and small theatrical films. They almost single-handedly kept theaters alive in the final months of 2020 with a slew of releases small (Let Him Go, Freaky, Promising Young Woman) and comparatively big (The Croods: A New Age and News of the World). Warner Bros. picked up the torch in early 2021 with Tom and Jerry, Godzilla Vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat.

Sure, Comcast was testing its PVOD plan, and AT&T provided fresh HBO Max content. However, movies were movies, especially when everyone else was holding their breath or selling/leasing films to streaming platforms. I can only guestimate that PVOD revenue and/or Peacock viewership has justified the star-driven, adult-skewing, non-franchise theatricals, like Bay’s Ambulance ($51 million on a $40 million budget), that have become such a commercial risk in the last six years.

That doesn’t mean Robert Eggers will get another $70 million for The Northman and the Big Balloon Adventure (would watch), but maybe something like Graham Moore’s The Outfit need not be an entirely for-the-love-of-the-game theatrical release. All of this is a long-winded way of saying that when the dust clears over the last two years, the studios may mostly be what they were in pre-Covid times because audience interest may not have changed that much once they were allowed to go outside again.

“Daniels are creators who have evolved their craft with a distinct vision and singular voice that is unmistakable across the spectrum of content vying for viewer’s attention,” said Donna Langley, Chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. “Their films are remarkably theatrical and with only two original projects under their belts, they’ve merely scratched the surface of what they are capable of as filmmakers. We’re grateful they’ve chosen to go on their journey with us.”

“We’re flattered, grateful, and a bit overwhelmed. Thanks to Donna, Jimmy, Peter, Michael and their whole Universal team for believing in us and our weird movies,” said Daniels. “To all the fans, thanks for making our careers possible, we’re gonna try to not let you down.”

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