Even though the recent Galactica series was a highly regarded series by critics, and does have a good fanbase, it was not exactly a ratings giant. Granted, it was playing on a niche network at the time. Universal did try to see how Galactica would do on NBC, but it apparently tanked.
So right now, some folks see Galactica as having three strikes against it. (And granted, some of those views are a bit skewed by their bias in favor of the classic Galactica).
1. Original series, whilst being a ratings giant, only had one season, and was plagued by production problems, hastily written scripts to keep up with production time, etc. Series ended without closure. Galactica 1980 did not help matters.
2. Production had started on a continuation series, to be helmed by Singer and Tom DeSanto. 9/11/01 occurs, and all production is stopped. Dirk Benedict (original Starbuck) reportedly had his bags packed and ready to leave for principal photography when the attacks occurred.
3. Sci-Fi produces its own series of Battlestar Galactica, under the hand of Ron Moore. Coming across as more of a "drama in space" as opposed to the space opera of the 70's, the show was hailed by critics, and fans alike, but failed to become a real ratings success. It did get four seasons, however. But, some original series fans feel that this series did nothing but fracture the fanbase, and that there is now no solidarity in a fanbase pushing for a movie with a direction in favor of the classic show. Couple that with Singer's constant on again/off again commitment to doing the movie.
But I can definitely see the merit in the question of "Why would Universal throw $250M at Battleship, which tanked (no pun intended
) and not focus on trying to revitalize Battlestar Galactica?"
It could also have something to do with Serenity. Firefly was a 20th Century Fox property, but FOX s***canned the show before it really had a chance to flourish, making the grievous mistake of piloting the show with "Train Robbery" instead of the original 2 hour pilot, also called "Serenity". Universal got the rights for the big screen movie, which also did not do well at the box office for reasons I cited earlier. Universal may have been looking at Serenity as their new shot at some kind of space opera/adventure. However, they did not exactly give it their best advertising campaign. In fact, one of the narrative lines in the trailers was "Six Rebels against an Empire!" Hmmm.....now where in the realms of science fiction/space fantasy have we heard about rebels taking on an empire, hmmm? I wonder.
So, with Serenity having slipped through their fingers, they probably are viewing a 30+ year old tv series like Galactica as a major financial risk. They would probably be more inclined to do a movie based on the recent series than the original.