Here's How USA is Breathing New Life Into Two Universal Film Franchises

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How USA Hopes to Breathe New Life into Jason Bourne and ‘The Purge’ Film Franchises

But will viewers want the world of Jason Bourne — without Jason Bourne?

USA is hoping a bit of corporate synergy can help fill the void left by the loss of WWE’s “SmackDown” franchise, which left a gaping hole in its Tuesday lineup.

But this week, the cable network will debut “Treadstone,” a spy drama based on the fictional black ops organization from the “Jason Bourne” film series, alongside the Season 2 premiere of “The Purge,” itself based on the Blumhouse horror franchise of the same name.

Both film franchises come from sister studio Universal Pictures. Their parent company NBCUniversal is looking to reap the benefits of finding new ways to mine franchise IP, among the most valuable commodities in the entertainment industry. Both “Treadstone” and “The Purge” are taking different approaches when it comes to extending their respective worlds from the big screen to the television screen.

“‘Treadstone’ as an idea is something that I’ve wanted to do for over a decade,” Ben Smith, a producer on “Bourne Legacy” and “Jason Bourne,” told TheWrap. “It wasn’t retrofitted to get it initially started as, ‘Oh let’s mine the library.’ This was a concept that we’ve been talking about for a long time.”

Smith is also co-founder of Captivate Entertainment, which managed the movie rights for “Bourne” author Robert Ludlum. “Treadstone” represents an opportunity to return to a world with which he’s spent the past 20 years. The USA series doesn’t feature Damon’s amnesiac assassin, nor anyone else from the films, instead being centered on the organization that was often the antagonists opposite Bourne.

Will viewers want more of Jason Bourne’s world, without Jason Bourne? Smith has a bit of experience attempting to answer that question, with “Bourne Legacy,” which swapped in Jeremy Renner in the title role. It was the lowest-grossing film domestically of the franchise with $113 million (and 2nd-lowest worldwide with $276 million).

But Smith believes expanding the story outward from one character into the larger world of the CIA allows for endless supply of stories. “The concept of these different black op covert groups that were formulated — Treadstone kind of being the umbrella — is something can mine many many different series,” he argued. “I think the mythology base into which we’re pulling from is substantial.”

For “The Purge,” the opportunity to create a TV show based in that world was all part of Jason Blum’s idea to have a multi-platform horror franchise. “He thought there was something very cool about doing it simultaneously,” James DeMonico, who wrote all four “Purge” films (and the upcoming fifth entry) and created the TV series, told TheWrap.

And DeMonico found out, to his surprise, that he actually thought the TV medium served the premise of the film better than the films.

“It was a way to explore the idea of the ‘Purge’ and the world we were trying to create in a way that you just simply can’t do — it was practical matter of real estate that would have 10 hours instead of an hour and a half,” he said.

“The movie is like a punch in the face,” he said, explaining that every film essentially had the same structure. “The Purge sirens always start 22 minutes into the film, and the movie always ends with sirens going off.” But with the TV show, DeMonico explained it allowed them to explore more of the “why” of a world that makes murder legal for a 12-hour span, instead of just the “what.”

“The TV show allowed us to say, ‘OK, we’re not beholden to this structure anymore.” For example, in Season 2, DeMonico explains, the series will show what life in this parallel version of America is like the other 364 days of the year. “We can build the society and show everybody what we can’t show in the movies – again, we don’t have the time. What is The Purge to society?”

Collectively, the five movies in the “Jason Bourne” franchise, based on Robert Ludlum’s novels, grossed more than $800 million domestically and more than $1.6 billion worldwide. “The Purge” amassed a smaller take for its four films with $285 million domestically and $456 million worldwide.

The divergent approaches for “Treadstone” and “The Purge” can also help explain how each views in-universe tie-ins to their films. Anyone who saw “Jason Bourne” would know that Matt Damon’s character is still out there somewhere, just don’t expect him to show up anytime soon, says Smith. “There’s reference to situations and to events from the films, but it’s more from the mythology,” he said. “But to bring in specific characters right now — that’s not what we’re discussing.”

For “The Purge,” whose fifth movie is slated for next July 4th, DeMonico sees the possibilities of using both mediums to serve the other. “We want to tie the TV show into the previous films. We’re trying to tie it into the previous movies in a really cool way.”

Tim Baysinger