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If 'Battleship' succeeds, expect movies for 'Ouija,' 'Candy Land'

Before video games and cable television, there was 'Battleship.' This week, the iconic board game hits the big screen in Europe. Will it sink or swim?

By Ryan NakashimaAssociated Press / April 13, 2012

In this film image released by Universal Pictures, Taylor Kitsch is shown in a scene from "Battleship." The Hasbro Inc. game using plastic pegs and ships was once a way for kids to spend lazy summer afternoons.

Universal Pictures/AP

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"Battleship" steams into movie theaters overseas this week, giving international audiences the first chance to decide whether a board game-based movie is sea-worthy.

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The Hasbro Inc. search-and-destroy game was once a way for kids to while away a summer afternoon. But as it debuts in Europe on Wednesday, "Battleship" the movie has become a potential franchise, sporting Michael Bay-inspired special effects, aliens invading Earth, a bikini-model actress, superstar Rihanna and, of course, lots of guns.

Whether the movie symbolizes Hollywood's lack of new ideas or its brilliance in adapting old ones, Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures is betting big that it's the latter. With a reported production budget of $200 million, observers say it will need to reap at least $500 million at box offices worldwide to pay off.

Hollywood's love of the sequel, the prequel, the reboot and the adapted novel all originate from the same premise: Moviegoers are more likely to buy a ticket if they are already familiar with the story.

But not since "Clue" bombed in 1985 has Tinseltown gambled on adapting a popular board game with no apparent storyline.

The idea of turning board games into movies has gained new traction in part because of the huge success of "Transformers," and to a lesser extent "G.I. Joe," which are both based on toys from toymaker Hasbro Inc. The three "Transformers" movies have grossed more than $2.6 billion worldwide, helping lift "Transformers" toys to become Hasbro's top-selling brand last year, exceeding 11 percent of its $4.3 billion in annual revenue.

For Hasbro, the movie is a way to get a globally marketed boost for its games business, which Sterne Agee analyst Margaret Whitfield called "stagnant" and lacking innovation. Turning that stagnation around is a goal of Brian Goldner, Hasbro's CEO since 2008. He told investors in February "we're going to reignite our games business."

If it succeeds, "Battleship" will be the advance guard of a whole fleet of planned adaptations of Hasbro games including "Ouija," also being developed by Universal for release in 2013, as well as "Risk" and "Candy Land," which are both in the works at Sony Corp. "Stretch Armstrong," a movie based on the glutinous-armed toy from Hasbro, is set for 2014 release by Relativity Media.

On paper, "Battleship" scores high on the checklist for blockbuster success: a hero in a life-or-death struggle against incomparable odds, a steamy love interest, a star-studded cast that includes Liam Neeson, and a whole lot of destruction and mayhem.

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