The financial woes of a Hollywood studio usually don't interest anyone but the studio executives and their cocaine dealers, but the troubles facing MGM have recently become newsworthy for the common movie fan. Because of the company's insolvency (it has some 140 creditors that it can't pay, and put itself up for sale last November), plans for the Hobbit movies and the next James Bond film have been put on hold. Movies like that cost hundreds of millions to make, and MGM doesn't have hundreds of millions. MGM barely has hundreds of hundreds.

In the midst of this crisis, MGM went looking around in the attic to see what else it owns the rights to, and what do you know, there in a musty old trunk, stashed between a Munchkin corpse and some Tom & Jerry slash fiction, was The Outer Limits. You may recall this sci-fi anthology TV series from its original network run between 1963 and 1965. You may also recall its 1995-2002 revival on Showtime, subsequently on Sci-Fi. You may also recall neither of these. I don't want to limit your options.

The point is, MGM has decided the best use of what little money it has would be to pay a couple of guys from the Saw movies a few hundred thousand dollars to write an Outer Limits screenplay, in the hopes that the magic Outer Limits beans will grow into a beanstalk that will lead to the acquisition of a gold-crapping goose to fund The Hobbit.
Variety reports that MGM has paid Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 to write a screenplay, due in October. Melton and Dunstan wrote the last four of the Lionsgate-owned Saw movies (including the one coming out this year), as well as the obviously-a-Saw-movie-but-with-a-different-title The Collector. I assume it was this connection to Lionsgate -- with which MGM had been trying to set up a merger -- that made them ideally suited for the Outer Limits job. The old Twilight Zone-y show doesn't otherwise have much in common with the oeuvre of Mssrs. Melton and Dunstan.

But is there amusing financial intrigue in this story? Yes! MGM got another extension on its debt payments -- its sixth -- in mid-July ... and it was right around this time that it paid Melton and Dunstan half a million dollars to exhume an ancient television program. So the creditors are like, "What, you can't afford to pay your bills, but you can afford to throw money at the Saw guys?!" And MGM is like, "No, no, we hired them waaaay before things got really bad for us, back when we could still afford to do things like that." And Melton and Dunstan are like, "Actually, we just got paid a few weeks ago." And MGM is like, "Well, yes, that's true, we didn't pay them until recently. But we hired them, and they started work, ages ago. For reals!" And MGM's creditors are like, "Yeah, whatever. Just see that you're ready to pay up when this latest extension expires. We'd hate for anything to happen to your nice little movie studio here." And MGM is like, "Sure thing, Tony! Not a problem!," sweating nervously and backing away while the creditors cast menacing glares and beat their fists into their palms. (The foregoing has been a dramatization. We don't know whether any of the people MGM owes money to are named Tony.)

If you're a fan of the old Outer Limits or the newer incarnation (both of which are on Hulu), how do you feel about the idea of an Outer Limits movie? Would they need to adapt classic episodes, or would it be OK if they're doing something new? And if you were running an 86-year-old movie studio, how many of your eggs would you think it wise to put in an Outer Limits basket?
categories Cinematical