Pact includes rights to all of scribe's future novels

New Line Home Entertainment has signed a long-term development, production and distribution deal with bestselling novelist Danielle Steel.

The studio plans to begin production in 2006 on the first of a series of DVD movies based on up to 39 of Steel’s more than 65 bestselling fiction novels. Deal includes rights to all of Steel’s future novels, including “Toxic Bachelors,” which is out this week.

The first DVD project has yet to be identified, but New Line senior VP of acquisitions Kevin Kasha said the studio would likely hire an independent production company to create one or two films a year at budgets of $1.5 million-$5 million, depending on how exotic the locations are in the stories.

Steel had 21 of her books adapted for TV movies and miniseries by NBC in the 1990s.

Steel has final approval and edit on the DVD movies as she did on the TV productions, but she will not write the screenplays.

New Line believes the studio can create what Kasha calls a global DVD paperback cottage industry leveraging the fan base of Steel, whose books have sold more than 530 million copies in 47 countries and 28 languages. She has had at least one novel on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 7½ years.

New Line plans to market the DVDs with Steel’s backlist of novels to her book fans who may not be avid DVD buyers yet and as gift sets for collectors. With movies being played in portable DVD players and on Sony’s PlayStation Portable, and soon on video iPods and other handheld devices, Kasha said Steel’s movies will be perfectly suited for those markets to appeal to travelers in airport shops in the same way that books by Steel are popular in those outlets.

In the wake of the end of “The Lord of the Rings” series and few other ongoing theatrical franchises to exploit on DVD, New Line has turned to an increasing number of acquisitions and production of DVD-only films this year.

“We’re looking for properties and brands that have a chance to break through the increasing clutter of the marketplace,” Kasha said.

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