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Universal Delays Troubled ‘Dark Tower’ Project

The project has three movies and a television miniseries — and is under some serious financial scrutiny

The first installment of "Dark Tower," an ambitious and now troubled project that involves three movies and a television series, won't start shooting on time because Universal is still trying to figure out whether to proceed with it at all, TheWrap has confirmed.

Production on what writer Stephen King has called his "magnum opus" was supposed 

to begin this summer. That's too soon to be possible.

One thing is clear: There's a short window. If the project doesn't get going by July 2012, the rights revert to King.

Also Read: Future of Universal's Big 'Tower' Franchise in Doubt Due to Budget Concerns

Universal execs have been meeting for weeks going over details of the project's finances — and trying to reduce costs — in an effort to determine if it makes sense to proceed.

The timing of all this is important. Comcast recently took control of NBCUniversal, and just this month, Universal fired its production president, Debbie Liebling.

Also Read: Universal Shake-Up: Liebling Out, Cramer & Kirschenbaum In

Comcast's corporate culture leans toward the frugal, and the very expensive "Dark Tower" clearly has attracted the attention of the people in charge of the money. They're paying attention and have proven their willingness to make cuts. In March, the studio scrapped plans to make  Guillermo del Toro's $150 million adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "Mountains of Madness."

But "Dark Tower" has some significant heft behind it. Ron Howard was expected to direct and produce the first movie; Akiva Goldsman is producing and writing and Brian Grazer is producing. Javier Bardem is supposed to star.

It's not clear yet if Howard and Bardem, both Oscar winners who are in constant demand, will remain with the project through the delay.