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Hollywood Diving into Public Domain

More material for less cash. That’s what Hollywood studios are gearing toward, Vulture reported Tuesday. Tired of paying for exclusive rights to big name titles, studios such as Dreamworks and Warner Bros. are now seeking potential blockbusters elsewhere—starting with the free public domain.

Understanding the public domain is reasonably simple. Take a classic story or well-known characters and twist them in a new way. For instance, Dreamwork’s "Rise of the Guardians" - branded as a sort of animated "Avengers"—will come out November 2012. But, instead of Robert Downey Jr. playing Iron Man, you get Santa Claus, voiced by Hugh Jackman, squaring off against the Bogeyman. (Feel like crying yet? Just think of the savings.) Does this mean good things for actors? Perhaps not. Though studios will most likely end up producing more material because of lower costs, it doesn’t mean all actors will receive a fair shot at hitting the big time. Especially if stars like Hugh Jackman are reduced to playing Santa in children’s films. There might not be much luck out there for hopefuls.

Public domain projects appeal financially to studios because they won't have to pay for rights to the material nor share gross earnings. Time is of the essence, however, as any studio can make their own versions of a classic story. For instance, there are two film versions of "Snow White" scheduled to come out in 2012.

“Every studio in town is looking for pre-branded entertainment,” Dan Jinks, the producer of "American Beauty," told Vulture. So you better come up with your own, un-original-original idea pretty quickly. Either that or go broke getting the rights to make another "Batman" film.

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