Filmmaker Ron Howard speaks during the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theater on April 30, 2011 in New York City.
Filmmaker Ron Howard speaks during the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theater on April 30, 2011 in New York City. - 
Listen To The Story

Kai Ryssdal: Fans of Stephen King will be disappointed to hear that Universal Studios doesn't share their devotion to the master of all things really and truly scary. Universal's parent company Comcast -- that is, the one paying the bills -- has canceled what was planned to be a mega-movie franchise and television series built around King's The Dark Tower books. The project was announced last fall -- Ron Howard and Javier Bardem were attached, as they say in Hollywood.

So why would the company spike a project with such headliner names? Sally Herships has the story.

Sally Herships: Fantasy can be expensive -- especially stories that span deserts, oceans, even portals, to different worlds. That kind of magical tale appears to cost more than Comcast is willing to pay.

Brett Lang: The Dark Tower is an extraordinarily ambitious project. It's also an extraordinarily expensive project.

Brent Lang is a reporter at He says it could cost more than $100 million to make just one of these Stephen King films. But Universal's new owner, Comcast, is frugal by Hollywood standards.

Max Dawson is a professor at Northwestern University.

Max Dawson: And as typically takes place any time one of these sorts of ownership changes occurs, the new owners have to evaluate whether or not they're willing to go forward with some of the commitments and investments that the previous owners had intended to make.

Dawson says big names like director Ron Howard and star Javier Bardem can be enticing. But they can also mean big paychecks.

Dawson: If you're looking at your budgets and you're trying to reconcile your investments with the terrible performance that some of the divisions of NBC Universal have had in recent years.

You might also be apprehensive about pouring this much cash into a project, which is almost George Lucas-esque in terms of its ambition. But Dawson says Comcast doesn't have to take chances. The company still has plenty of profits to fall back on -- from cable TV.

I'm Sally Herships for Marketplace.