CBS Films sinks teeth into 'Beastly'



CBS Films has signed on to its first potential project, optioning the high school novel "Beastly."

The book is a modern take on the beauty and the beast myth; it tells the story of a popular male student who turns into a beast after a classmate puts a spell on him and then must win over a girl in his new state. Young-adult author Alex Flinn penned the novel, which News Corp. imprint HarperTeen released in the fall. Susan Cartsonis ("Aquamarine") has been attached to produce.

No writers have been attached to the project, which would have to wait until the end of the writers strike to move forward. Before the strike began, executives had said they hoped CBS Films could release its first movie by the end of 2008.

Execs now say they're aiming for the slate to launch in winter 2009.

CBS chief Leslie Moonves confirmed the "Beastly" option during an investor conference in New York. He said the division had optioned a second title but declined to offer specifics.

CBS Films intends to make between four and six movies per year at budgets in the sub-$50 million range. "Beastly" is a youth-oriented project, though the company had not previously delineated the teen market as a potential target for its releases.

The theatrical unit of the mainly television-centric conglomerate has been building its film operations slowly but steadily during the past year, hiring Paramount veteran Bruce Tobey as COO and former Columbia Pictures exec Amy Baer as president and CEO. The company is part of a crop of new theatrical outfits that intend to make midrange movies subsidized with alternative forms of financing, which in CBS' case could include the Showtime output deal.

Steven Zeitchik reported from Los Angeles; Georg Szalai reported from New York.