When Universal Pictures’ “Five Nights at Freddy’s” opens in theaters and on streaming service Peacock on Oct. 27, it will mark 2023’s final Hollywood video game adaptation after a stretch when these intellectual-property crossovers enjoyed one helluva hot streak.
To Peter Levin, it was only a matter of time.
Levin, one of a trio of principals at Santa Monica-based venture capital firm(whose pinball machine-filled office is pictured above), has been active at the intersection of the entertainment and video game industries in various capacities way ahead of it being cool.
Long before the last 24 months saw a flood of movies and TV shows achieve hit status after an extended dry spell — think HBO’s “The Last of Us,” Universal/Illumination’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” Research firm Omdia estimated there was a 47% year-over-year increase in Hollywood game adaptations in 2022.
Levin has either had a hand in nearly every project that came through this busy intersection — including next year’s highly anticipated Amazon Studios’ series adaptation of the “Fallout” franchise from the producers of “Westworld” — or is closely linked to the ones he didn’t, such as “Freddy’s,” which counts one of its executive producers, Striker Entertainment’s Russell Binder, as Levin’s friend and frequent collaborator.
“Peter has a really good eye for game IP and exceptional connections,” said Binder. “He’s deeply passionate about gaming and has always understood its potential as entertainment.”
What kept Levin plugging away at IP adaptations even before they became hits was his deep love of gaming, something he believes also helped elevate the efforts of a new generation of Hollywood creatives.
“I think the quality of product that we’re seeing on-screen and via streaming services is now what it is because we have filmmakers and showrunners who have grown up as passionate video game players, so they’re intimately familiar with the intellectual property,” said Levin.
For the past four years at Griffin, Levin and his partners, Phil Sanderson and Nick Tuosto, have amassed more than $1 billion in assets under management in the gaming sphere, including Discord, Spyke Games, WinZO, Overwolf and Forte.
It’s the latest chapter in a two-decade run for Levin in which he has bridged the worlds of gaming and media on the Hollywood side of the business in previous management stints at Lionsgate and Legendary Entertainment.
Video games were once an afterthought to the studios, relegated to the licensing and merchandising branch of their business. But Levin had the foresight to make his colleagues understand the value of new platforms, such as when he was at Lionsgate as president of interactive ventures, games and digital strategy and he introduced the “John Wick” franchise as a tie-in to “Fortnite” in 2019 before the movie business had really woken up to the Epic Games juggernaut.
Levin also helped shepherd a who’s who of game IP to various broadcasters and studios, including Lionsgate TV’s 2017 adaptation of King‘s beloved puzzle game “Candy Crush Saga” and the studio’s forthcoming role-playing first-person shooter “Borderlands” film.
“I think every buyer, every distributor out there, now recognizes the power of the video game industry. It’s larger than film, music and publishing combined,” said Levin.