Laffer brand pacts for feature prod'n

Aiming to pump up its 36-year-old brand, National Lampoon Inc. will begin inhouse feature production with as many as four fully financed comedies annually.

The company — which has been involved in more than two dozen pics starting with 1978’s “Animal House,” usually via licensing deals — is partnering with the Farrelly Brothers through their Conundrum Entertainment shingle on “National Lampoon’s Bag Boy,” centered on an underdog teen who discovers he’s got the talent to excel in the world of competitive grocery bagging.

Rob Moran and Zen Gesner, who brought the project to National Lampoon, are producing with Jefferson Richard and National Lampoon exec Barry Layne. National Lampoon and Conundrum Entertainment are exec producing along with National Lampoon president Bruce Long.

Project, originally written by Hans Rodionoff as “Champion Fill,” has been rewritten by Mort Nathan (“Kingpin,” “Boat Trip”), who’s also directing.

National Lampoon CEO Daniel Laikin told Daily Variety that the budget ceiling for each pic will be $12 million. The company’s aiming to begin shooting “Bag Boy” before the end of the year and will focus its development on properties available through the magazine, which ceased monthly publication in 1992.

“There’s a treasure trove of material from the magazine,” Laikin said.

Laikin said the move into full-fledged producing is part of a four-year transformation of the publicly held company targeting its core demos of college students and 18-34-year-olds. During that time, National Lampoon has taken on an infrastructure similar to that of a ministudio, with three divisions — entertainment, college marketing and distribution arm National Lampoon Networks.

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