USHE ups direct-to-vid profile with Stine series


Universal Studios Home Entertainment is bolstering its presence in the increasingly lucrative direct-to-video arena with the launch of a new line of original movies based on the novels of children's author R.L. Stine.

Films in the new "R.L. Stine Presents" series are bring produced by the Hatchery and marketed and distributed by Universal. The initial release, "Don't Think About It," begins principal photography Wednesday and is set for DVD release in time for Halloween 2007. The family thriller — the first original movie based on a Stine book — stars Emily Osment (Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana").

"As one of the best-selling children's authors in history, R.L. Stine is virtually a franchise unto himself," said Glenn Ross, executive vp and general manager at Universal Studios Home Entertainment Family Prods. "He's also a master of 'safe-scare' storytelling, which has been a phenomenon in children's publishing but remains one of the most underserved categories in filmed entertainment."

Stine's books, including the popular "Goosebumps" series, have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide. Future installments in the "R.L. Stine Presents" DVD line will be based on the best-selling horror anthology "The Haunting Hour."

"Don't Think About It" is being directed by Alex Zamm ("Inspector Gadget 2") and features an original screenplay by Emmy winners Dan Angel and Billy Brown (TNT's "Door to Door"), who also partnered as writers on "The X-Files."

The film centers on a lonely teenager (Osment) struggling to adapt to a new neighborhood and a new school. She plans a series of scary pranks to frighten her new classmates, only to wind up in the cross hairs of a mysterious stranger.

Direct-to-video has become a big business at Universal, which in the past two years has released a series of direct-to-video sequels to popular theatricals. First came "Bring It On Again," a made-for-DVD sequel to the 2000 cheerleader comedy "Bring It On," in June 2004. Then came "Carlito's Way: Rise to Power" and "American Pie Presents: Band Camp" in September and December of last year, respectively.

In August, "Bring It On: All or Nothing," a second direct-to-video sequel, sold 750,000 DVDs its first week in stores, generating about $12 million in consumer spending. Next up is "American Pie Presents: Naked Mile," due Dec. 19.

Universal also has released almost a dozen direct-to-video sequels to Don Bluth's 1988 theatrical hit "The Land Before Time," with combined sales of more than 50 million units.