Lionsgate puts up with 'Bratz'

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Lionsgate is getting into the "Bratz" business.

In a twofold deal announced Thursday, the studio has acquired U.S. distribution rights from Crystal Sky Pictures to the first "Bratz" live-action theatrical feature, based on the popular Bratz dolls from MGA Entertainment. The indie studio also has signed a distribution deal with MGA for future animated "Bratz" direct-to-DVD features.

Financed by Steven Paul's Crystal Sky Pictures, "Bratz: The Movie" is to be directed by Sean McNamara ("Raise Your Voice") and written by Susan Estelle Jansen ("The Lizzie McGuire Movie"). MGA CEO Isaac Larian, Arad Prods.' Avi Arad and Paul will produce the picture, with Crystal Sky president Benedict Carver executive producing. The film, which centers on four teenage girls from diverse backgrounds who use their friendship to discover their individuality, is set to begin production in February. Casting has not been announced.

Lionsgate also has signed a deal with MGA that provides the studio with exclusive North American rights to future "Bratz" animated and direct-to-DVD features. Under that deal, Lionsgate will release "Bratz Fashion Pixies" on DVD in the spring.

Since 2004, MGA has produced five "Bratz" direct-to-DVD animated movies, which 20th Century Fox had distributed. According to MGA, the deal with Fox ended with the two DVDs that currently are in the marketplace.

"There is no company that has a better pulse on what today's girl is looking for than MGA," Lionsgate president Steve Beeks said. "It's amazing to realize that 'Bratz' is only five years old considering its incredible popularity and penetration in the marketplace."

The "Bratz" live-action film marks Lionsgate's second partnership with Arad, who paired with the indie studio on "The Punisher" in 2004 and the direct-to-DVD "Marvel Animated Features" series.

"We're very excited about working with Arad Prods. and Crystal Sky Pictures to create the definitive 'Bratz' live-action feature film," Larian said. "We consider Lionsgate an ideal partner for our 'Bratz' live-action theatrical film and animated features and welcome the company's innovative marketing technique."

For the direct-to-DVD component of the deal, MGA will support each film with all-new lines of dolls and other toys based on each of the movies.
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