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Universal Scares Up DTV 'R.L. Stine' Movies

19 Oct, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Universal Studios Home Entertainment is bolstering its presence in the increasingly lucrative direct-to-video arena with the launch of a new line of original movies based on the novels of children's author R.L. Stine.

Films in the new “R.L. Stine Presents” series are bring produced by The Hatchery and marketed and distributed by Universal. The initial release, Don't Think About It, begins principal photography Oct. 25 and is earmarked for DVD release in time for Halloween 2007. The family thriller — the first-ever original movie based on an R.L. Stine book, stars Emily Osment, of the hit Disney Channel TV series “Hannah Montana.”

“As one of the best-selling children's authors in history, R.L. Stine is virtually a franchise unto himself,” said Glenn Ross, EVP and GM of Universal Studios Home Entertainment Family Productions. “He's also a master of ‘safe-scare' storytelling, which has been a phenomenon in children's publishing but remains one of the most underserved categories in filmed entertainment.”

Stine's books, including the popular “Goosebumps” series, have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide. Future installments in the “R.L. Stine Presents” DVD line will be based on the best-selling horror anthology “The Haunting Hour.”

Don't Think About It is being directed by Alex Zamm (Inspector Gadget 2) and features an original screenplay written by Emmy Award winners Dan Angel and Billy Brown, who also partnered as writers on “The X-Files.” The film tells the story of a lonely teenager (Osment) struggling to adapt to a new neighborhood and a new school. She plans a series of scary pranks to frighten her new classmates, only to wind up in the cross hairs of mysterious stranger.

DTV has become a big business at Universal, which in the last two years has released a series of direct-to-video sequels to popular theatricals. First came Bring It On Again, a made-for-DVD sequel to the 2000 cheerleader comedy Bring It On, in June 2004. Then came Carlito's Way: Rise to Power and American Pie Presents: Band Camp in September and December 2005, respectively.

Last August, Bring It On: All Or Nothing, a second DTV sequel, sold 750,000 DVDs its first week in stores, generating about $12 million in consumer spending. Next up: American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile, due Dec. 19.

Universal also has released nearly a dozen DTV sequels to Don Bluth's 1988 theatrical hit The Land Before Time, with combined sales of more than 50 million videos.

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