HBO dolls up 'Girl' deal

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HBO Films and American Girl have inked an overall deal for films, series, specials and documentaries, the companies have said.

The first project under the pact will be an untitled live-action theatrical film based on the brand's Depression-era doll Kit Kittredge, which debuted as a character in 2000. Produced by Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Marisa Yeres alongside Red Om Films' Julia Roberts and Lisa Gillan, the film originally was set up at Walden Media, but the company recently put the project into turnaround.

Picturehouse, a joint venture of HBO and New Line Cinema, will release the franchise's first big-screen foray, with production beginning in the summer. Although a film targeting girls ages 3-12 might seem a strange fit for the indie distributor, whose slate includes such adult fare as "Pan's Labyrinth" and "A Prairie Home Companion," Picturehouse president Bob Berney said the company is looking to branch out into new areas.

"We want to show that Picturehouse can incorporate any genre, any demographic in a really high-quality way," said Berney, who added that the company's New York offices are located next to an American Girl flagship store. "As an indie, to reach a younger girl audience is a really exciting prospect."

Ann Peacock ("The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe") penned the screenplay. No director is attached.

HBO Films president Colin Callender said the deal is "an unprecedented opportunity to align the forces of both the HBO and American Girl brands in a groundbreaking collaboration that will enable us to take advantage of the rapidly expanding, multiplatform, multifaceted promotional opportunities spanning all areas of distribution."

Julie Goldstein will shepherd the project for HBO Films.

The book and retail phenomenon already has spawned such telefilms as Disney Channel's "Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front" last year and WB Network's "Felicity: An American Girl Adventure" in 2005.

Mattel-owned American Girl is repped by ICM.
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