Studios seek out next ‘Potter’

WB nets 'Septimus'; Relativity digs 'Tunnels'

Hollywood is waving its wand over U.K. children’s lit properties in an attempt to conjure “Potter”-like magic at the B.O.

On Wednesday, Warner Bros. unveiled its acquisition of bigscreen rights to “Septimus Heap,” a seven-book series filled with wizards and spells, while Relativity Media trumpeted its acquisition of “Tunnels,” another U.K. children’s fantasy series.

Deals come less than two weeks before the seventh and final installment in the “Harry Potter” lit series bows in stores.

“Septimus Heap” revolves around two babies switched at birth, a boy who discovers his birthright as son of a powerful wizard and a girl destined to be a princess.

Angie Sage, who wrote the series for HarperCollins, will exec produce the first bigscreen adaptation, “Septimus: Magyk.” Karen Rosenfelt, who exec produced “The Devil Wears Prada,” will produce Warner’s first installment.

“Tunnels” centers on a 14-year-old whose father disappears down a tunnel. The boy investigates, only to discover a secret world of wizards.

British scribes Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams self-published the first tome, which will be published by Barry Cunningham this summer in the U.K. and bow in the U.S. in January through Chicken House/Scholastic.

Scribes have since completed a sequel and are working on a third volume.

Relativity will finance the series, with Ryan Kavanaugh serving as producer with Mark Canton. Duo previously teamed on “Land of the Dead” and “300.”

Kavanaugh didn’t shy away from the lit property’s similarities to “Harry Potter” — Scholastic just so happens to be the U.S. publisher of “Potter” — but held off predicting similar box office riches for his project, which Relativity is developing outside its studio slate deals.

“We’ll be happy if we do like ‘The Matrix,'” he joked.

Kavanaugh expects “Tunnels” to go into production by the middle of next year.

The next Warners installment of “Harry Potter,” now in production, is slated to bow Nov. 21, 2008.

“Septimus Heap” has already proved to be a big seller in book form around the globe, selling in 28 languages. First published in March 2005, the lit series has sold more than 1 million units Stateside; all the entries have appeared on national bestsellers lists.

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