'Chicken Soup for the Soul' Expanding Into TV, Film (Exclusive)
Among the projects based on the best-selling book franchise are a hidden-camera show launching on The CW in October and a feature film in the works at Warner Bros.
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
With more than 600 million books sold over the past 22 years — and a dozen new titles each year, including The Power of Forgiveness, co-written by Black-ish star Anthony Anderson — Chicken Soup for the Soul now is expanding into TV and movies.
Chicken Soup for the Soul is a private company based in Cos Cob, Conn., a suburb of Greenwich. According to the company's website, retail sales exceed $100 million per year in the U.S. and Canada.
Besides the books, which are distributed by Simon & Schuster, it syndicates five weekly columns to newspapers through King Features, has a radio network of over 200 stations covering 65 percent of the U.S. and a blog network with over 9.5 million unique visitors a month.
A production unit established in September has set a weekly hidden-camera show to launch in October as part of The CW's One Magnificent Morning lineup on Saturday. "It's going to be about how people make the right decisions," says Chicken Soup for the Soul Productions CEO Steve Ronson, a former A&E executive.
The series, which is guaranteed for at least 52 episodes, is targeting teens, young adults and families. It's being produced with Litton Entertainment, which will handle international sales.
Ronson says they will not have to deficit finance the series because it is being partly underwritten by The Boniuk Foundation, which says on its website that it "believes in finding innovative techniques that educate people in the new age of information sharing." The plan is to have a celebrity as host, but no one is set as of yet.
On the feature side, Alcon Entertainment and producer Jordan Kerner (The Smurfs, Fried Green Tomatoes) have exercised an option for a film (likely to be called Chicken Soup for the Soul). It will be distributed by Warner Bros. under its deal with Alcon.
Ronson describes the movie as "Crash meets Love Actually," adding that they are looking for several stars as leads. It will have four intersecting inspirational real-life (but fictionalized) stories. The script is being written by Lewis Colick (October Sky, Ghosts of Mississippi) ahead of a 2016 release.
Ronson insists the movie will not be a fantasy or an unreal view of modern life.
"We're not making granny apple films," says Ronson. "We want real life, real people, real situations. The movie will reflect what goes on in the 21st century."
There's also two unscripted series being developed with DB Goldline, a New York-based company run by Ricky Goldin and Derek Britt, as well as a competition reality show in development and a reality series about families, with the focus on dads and kids.
Chicken Soup is also working on an interactive talk show with Alcon, which Ronson says will be a "quintessentially Chicken Soup show," with lots of different segments. He expects it to be ready to offer up for national syndication by the 2016-17 season.
Ronson says they are also at work on the Daily Dip of Soup, a short-form digital series offering inspirational vignettes. It will likely have its own website and be syndicated to other services and sites. It will be advertiser-supported and free to consumers.
"We see it as an antidote to a lot of what happens around the world," says Ronson. "We get inundated every day with negative news and news that is upsetting. We don't have enough lighthearted, inspirational, fun, rewarding content out there. We think a daily sip can warm your day, so to speak."
Ronson says they are also planning other series and specials drawing on the 21,000 stories in the Chicken Soup library, especially themed specials for the holidays.
"Our plan is to make Chicken Soup for the Soul a significant branded production entity," says Ronson, "and take it far and wide. We think there is a global audience for this brand."