If building hotels on all Monopoly’s most expensive properties as part of an evil scheme to bankrupt rival players ever caused you to feel a twinge of corporate guilt, a new movie looks set to confirm the capitalistic pastime’s cruel inception.
Hollywood is to bring an origins story for the popular Hasbro board game to the big screen, and it’s no surprise to hear that the toy manufacturer is not involved in the production.
The new film, from Little Miss Sunshine production company Big Beach, will be based on the non-fiction book The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favourite Board Game, according to Deadline.
Mary Pilon’s 2015 tome reveals how the game originated from a feminist, progressive inventor named Elizabeth Magie as Landlord’s Game, more than 30 years before games maker Parker Brothers began selling Monopoly.
The book’s other revelation: that Pilon’s version was imagined as an anti-capitalist critique of monopolistic corporate greed, rather than a celebration of real estate avarice. Illinois-born Magie had intended the game as an attack on slumlords and other monopolists of the early twentieth century, but she eventually sold her rights for just $500 (Dh1,836) and never made a cent from residuals.
The new film will also focus on Parker Brothers’s 1974 lawsuit against the inventor of a rival game titled Anti-Monopoly, which aimed to flag up the undesirable premise of its predecessor. Created by San Francisco State university professor Ralph Anspach, the later board game sees players encouraged to break up monopolies as government agents armed with anti-trust legislation.
During the court case, Anspach became aware of the surprising origins of Monopoly and eventually settled out of court, with Anti-Monopoly still sold to this day.
Should the new film make it to the production stage, it would manifest as something of a black eye for Hasbro, which now wholly owns Parker Brothers. The games maker has been trying for the best part of a decade to get an official Monopoly game into cinemas, with a new version announced only in July based on a script by The Truman Show’s Andrew Niccol and set up at studio Lionsgate.
On the other hand, Big Beach’s attempt to sew the seeds for a tale of corporate ignominy arrives at a time of mixed omens for such ventures. The McDonald’s origins tale The Founder, with Michael Keaton as Machiavellian fast food impresario Ray Kroc, is presently shooting with the aim of a 2017 awards season debut. But Apple biopic Steve Jobs floundered at the United States box office despite strong reviews, and will now need a vigorous Oscars run if it is to avoid losing money for studio Universal.