Rome Sweet Rome

Warner Bros. signs to make movie from Reddit comment

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It’s official: A Reddit comment has spawned a movie deal. And not the B-movie type, either.

Warner Bros. Studios has snagged the rights to Rome Sweet Rome, a story that began about a month ago as a breathless series of comments by Reddit user James Erwin.

Those comments answered a question posted by another Reddit user: “What if a unit of current U.S. Marines are suddenly transported back to ancient Rome and forced to do battle with the Roman legions?”

Adam Kolbrenner, of Hollywood’s Madhouse Entertainment, was following those comments closely. As we reported last month, he moved quickly to contact Erwin and work with him on refining the concept.

Kolbrenner then contacted Chris Gary, a young executive at Warner Bros., who aggressively snagged up the rights to the film, according to Variety.

It’s a smart move by the young executive. Reddit, with more than a billion page views a month, can drive online conversation. So the movie brings with it kind of buzz most studios would drop millions for.

A post congratulating Erwin, whose Reddit name is Prufrock451, marched straight to the top of the site’s front page this morning.

“Congrats to Prufrock451!” the title read. “His story 'Rome Sweet Rome,' which started as a comment on askreddit, is being turned into a movie by Warner Bros!”

“HOLY SHIT YOU CAN MAKE MONEY FROM KARMA?!” redditor emkat wrote, joking about Reddit’s internal points system that rewards good contributions to the community (but holds no real-world value).

Meanwhile, in the section of the site devoted to Erwin’s story, r/RomeSweetRome, redditors tempered their excitement with anxiety. Hollywood, many seem to fear, will ruin Erwin’s story.

Take, for instance, the reported plot turn that will see the time-traveling marines return home to the present.

“I'm sad to say that that sounds so typically Hollywood and disappointing,” redditor tylr wrote. “Not at all in the spirit of what I've been reading in RSR, and entirely unlikely from a standpoint of realism.”

When we spoke to Erwin, a 37-year-old technical writer from Des Moines and two-time Jeopardy champ, last month, he told us the response from Reddit shocked him.

“I was thinking that maybe a couple hundred people would take a few seconds to say ‘That was fun’ or even just vote on the comment,” Erwin said. “I never would have expected a response like the one I got.”

It’s a not-quite-rags to riches story only made possible by the power of the social news site’s considerable buzz machine.

You couldn’t write a better movie than that.

Image credit Moyan Brenn