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Coming out on top of a bidding war, Universal Pictures has optioned the rights to Amari and the Night Brothers, the debut novel by first-time author B.B. Alston.
Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman of Mandeville Films (Beauty and the Beast, Wonder) will produce the adaptation alongside Black-ish star Marsai Martin and Josh Martin via the duo’s Genius Productions. Don Cheadle will also produce.
The project is intended to be a starring vehicle for Martin, who most recently starred in and executive produced the comedy Little for Universal.
Details about the book are being kept out of the sun, but it is known to be a middle-grade, contemporary real-world fantasy centered on a black girl who goes on a journey in which she discovers her hidden powers. The book was one of the splashes of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in April, where many territories around the world were sold in a heated auction. Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, won a six-way auction for U.S. rights. A January 2021 publishing date is being eyed.
Alston, who hails from South Carolina, found his agent via #DVPit, a Twitter event where writers from underrepresented backgrounds pitch book agents.
Disney, Paramount and Sony were also among those in the running for the film rights.
Mandeville’s Naomi Funabashi sourced the book for the company alongside Genius Productions’ Prince Baggett. Senior vp production Sara Scott and creative executive Christine Sun will oversee the project for Universal.
Alston is repped by UTA and The Bent Agency. Martin is with WME, The Movement and Morris Yorn. Cheadle is repped by UTA.
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