U goes for Spice Girls pic

LONDON — Universal Pictures is leading the race to acquire North American rights to the upcoming Spice Girls movie, which starts production in June.

Polygram Filmed Entertainment is set to pick up the project for the countries where it has its own distribution companies — the U.K., France, Benelux, Spain, Germany and Australia. Icon Entertainment Intl. will sell the remaining foreign territories.

The pic, which is being billed as a “Hard Day’s Night” for the ’90s, will be helmed by Brit sitcom director Bob Spiers, with a script by comedy writer Kim Fuller. It is being produced by Barnaby Thompson and Uri Fruchtmann’s Fragile Films.

The Spice Girls, whose “Girl Power” antics have given them four successive No. 1 singles in the U.K. and a U.S. chart-topper with their debut “Wannabe,” have their second album due out in November. The film is scheduled for release at Christmas.

The film’s U.S. distribution is likely to be negotiated at Cannes, where the Spice Girls will perform live for French TV and will hold a press conference. Universal is the leading candidate, although Paramount also is showing interest via MTV.

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