Movie studio 20th Century Fox and Walden Media, the company behind “The Chronicles of Narnia” films, have formed a joint venture to produce and market family friendly films, the companies said Tuesday.
The move gives Walden, which has been producing films with a number of studios, a permanent home for future projects while giving Fox the means to expand its reach into the lucrative family entertainment sector.
Walden, which is owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, will remain an independent entity under the deal with its own production staff. Current projects under development with rival studios, including The Walt Disney Co., Paramount Pictures and New Line, also will remain in place.
The new, as yet unnamed joint venture, will market and promote films generally rated “G” and “PG,” including movies that will be contributed to the venture by both Walden and Fox.
As part of the deal, Fox will have first look rights at future projects from Bristol Bay Productions, Walden Media’s sister company under Anschutz Film Group. Bristol Bay’s past projects include 2004’s “Ray” and 2005’s “Sahara.”
Fox has been focusing on the family audience once owned almost exclusively by Disney. Fox has been releasing more animated films, such as “Ice Age.”
The studio also distributed the home video of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and last year launched a Web site to target Christian and family films directly to a religious audience.
“‘G’ and ‘PG’-rated pictures make up 10 percent of films released, but they dominate the marketplace with almost 30 percent of the gross,” Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairmen and chief executives Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman said in a statement.
“It’s a great business to be in and this venture is a great fit between our two companies.”
Last year, after the success of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which was released by Disney, Walden started a book publishing unit and began to explore a potential partnership with a studio.
The new label already has a number of films under development, including “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman, and “City of Ember,” based on Jeanne DuPrau’s novel and produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman for Playtone Productions.
Walden already has started work on a sequel called “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” which is based on the third book in the C.S. Lewis series. It’s scheduled to be in theaters by the summer of 2008.