Walden steps up for rights to fantasy series

Phillip Anschutz’s Walden Media has bought film rights to Susan Cooper’s five-book “The Dark Is Rising Sequence” fantasy-adventure series and set it up with Marc Platt.

Walden said its first feature in the series will be based on the second book, “The Dark Is Rising,” centering on a modern-day boy who learns on his 11th birthday that he’s the Sign Seeker — the last of a group of immortals who have dedicated their lives to fighting forces of the Dark. As he uncovers a series of clues, some dating back to biblical times, the boy also discovers the future of the world rests in his hands.

Platt execs Adam Siegel and Jared LeBoff are shepherding for the shingle; Walden exec VP of production Alex Schwartz and director of development Evan Turner will oversee for the company. “The Dark Is Rising” was first published in 1973. The other books in the series are “Over Sea, Under Stone,” “Greenwitch,” “The Grey King” and “Silver on the Tree.”

Deal marks Walden’s second franchise acquisition, four years after buying C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. Disney is releasing the first film of the series, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” in December.

Universal-based Platt’s credits include the “Legally Blonde” films, “The Perfect Man,” “Honey” and “Josie and the Pussycats.” He recently produced the Broadway musical “Wicked.”

Anschutz, who operates Walden and Bristol Bay Prods. through his Anschutz Film Group, is a publicity-shy Denver billionaire who has aimed his film slate toward the strategy of promoting education, religious faith and family values.

Walden’s projects have included “Because of Winn-Dixie,” “Holes” and “Around the World in 80 Days” and, partnering with Paramount, Nickelodeon and Kerner Entertainment, the upcoming “Charlotte’s Web.” Bristol Bay was a producer on “Ray,” “Sahara” and “The Game of Their Lives.”

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