Nickelodeon has begun pre-production on “Harriet the Spy,” its first theatrical under the Nickelodeon Movies banner for distribution by sister company Paramount Pictures.

Debbie Beece, president of Nickelodeon Movies, says her goal is to collaborate with Par to produce three family films a year, with budgets averaging between $10 million and $20 million.

Geraldine Laybourne, president of Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite, says Nick has ended its movie development deal with 20th Century Fox, an arrangement that came up dry: No movies ever went into production.

Unlike many other major studios, Paramount doesn’t have an inhouse family-pictures unit, says Laybourne. Nickelodeon could end up taking over that function, particularly because its success as a cable network has given the Nick logo a brand identity that’s one of the most visible, and merchandisable, in the industry.

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