‘Storm’ on horizon

Distributors book coin for pricey teen pic

Entertainment Film Distributors, Capitol Films and Weinstein Co. have teamed with Isle of Man Film, VIP Medienfonds and the UK Film Council to finance “Stormbreaker” — at more than $40 million, one of the biggest British indie movies of recent years.

Pic, directed by Geoffrey Sax (“White Noise”) and produced by Marc and Peter Samuelson, is based on the first book in Anthony Horowitz’s bestselling series of novels about the reluctant teenage spy Alex Rider.

Shooting starts July 4 at Pinewood Studios and in the Isle of Man. Horowitz, who previously wrote “The Gathering” for the Samuelsons, has adapted his own book.

Rider is a 14-year-old orphan who has been unwittingly trained all his life by his uncle with the skills to become a secret agent – scuba diving, mountaineering, martial arts and so on. When his guardian, an MI6 agent, is killed, Rider learns the truth and finds himself forced against his will to take on a dangerous mission for the British secret service.

His emotional turmoil and quest for a father figure underpins the book’s action-packed plotting, making it more akin to “Harry Potter” than to more irreverent junior spy franchises such as the Weinsteins’ own “Spy Kids” or “Agent Cody Banks.”

“There’s a lot more emotional depth and true drama than in some of the more fantastical and jokey films,” said Marc Samuelson.

“Like Harry Potter, we see Alex Rider as a beloved English hero, and we see this as a beginning of a franchise to which we have the sequel rights,” Harvey Weinstein said.

The Weinsteins are taking North American rights, with Entertainment picking up the U.K., and Capitol handling international sales.

No casting has yet been confirmed.

The Rider books (of which six have so far been published) have a huge following in Britain among boys in the 8 to 14 age bracket (traditionally the most reluctant readers). “Stormbreaker” sold over a million copies, and the most recent installment, “Ark Angel,” recently debuted in the top five of the overall bestseller chart.

For an indie movie, there will be an unusually extensive push into merchandizing, licensing and product placement. The producers have tapped Warren Kornblum, a former worldwide vp of marketing at Toys R Us, as head of branding for the project.

Isle of Man Film topper Steve Christian is taking his first straight producer credit on the movie, reflecting the fact that he funded the project’s development by the Samuelsons.

VIP’s Andy Grosch is also credited as a producer.

The UK Film Council’s Premiere Fund is investing $4.3 million, one of its largest-ever commitments to a single movie.

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