Universal video traps new 'Scorpion' tale

Prequel is first actioner for DVD Originals line

Having tapped into its "American Pie" franchise for three successful direct-to-video sequels, Universal Studios Home Entertainment is now casting its eye toward "The Mummy."

"The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian," a prequel to the "Mummy" spinoff "The Scorpion King," will be released next year under the division's DVD Originals banner. It's the first action-adventure release in the line, which in the past has focused on comedies.

Craig Kornblau, president of USHE and Universal Pictures Digital Platforms, said the film "expands on the DVD Originals strategy of creating and aggressively marketing high-quality made-for-DVD sequels to beloved Universal franchises."

He added, "We are confident this thrilling action-adventure will take our DVD Originals strategy to the next level while setting a new industry standard for made-for-DVD offerings."

"Akkadian" follows the events before "Scorpion," the 2002 summer theatrical hit that starred Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Mathayus, the fearsome warrior king of an ancient desert empire. The new production tells the story of how young Mathayus rose to become the Scorpion King.

The film is being shot in South Africa -- principal photography began this month in Capetown -- and stars upstart Michael Copon (best known for the N's "Beyond the Break") as the young Mathayus. The film also features Simon Quarterman, Karen David, Ralf Moeller and Ultimate Fighting Championship king Randy Couture.

The film is being directed by Russell Mulcahy ("Resident Evil: Extinction") and was written by Randall McCormick ("Titan A.E."). USHE is co-producing with Film Afrika and ApolloMovie.

" 'The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian' is by far our most ambitious DVD Original production ever in terms of the scope and quality of the sets, the visual effects, the fight sequences and the stunt work," said Glenn Ross, executive vp and GM of USHE Family Prods.

Universal's DVD Originals brand was launched in September 2005 with the release of "Carlito's Way: Rise to Power," a belated sequel to the 1993 theatrical hit "Carlito's Way" that has sold 1.5 million units. Next came "American Pie Presents: Band Camp," which sold more than 1 million units in the first week following its Dec. 26, 2005, release. The title has since sold more than 2 million units and is the top-selling live-action, nonfamily direct-to-video title of all time.