Worldwide scoops up ‘Tom Swift’

Hecht's studio nabs rights to entire book series

Worldwide Biggies, a digital studio recently opened by longtime Nickelodeon and Spike exec Albie Hecht, has acquired all rights to Simon & Schuster’s long-running Tom Swift book series.

The company plans to introduce the franchise with a feature film and vidgame and follow with episodes for TV and the Web. Hecht used a similar pattern for “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” which opened as a film while he was head of Nick Movies and soon segued into an estimable run as a TV skein.

Worldwide Biggies is in talks with potential partners — directors, producers and/or studios — so some of the decisions about how the Swift series will be put onscreen will be made after that partnership is set.

Swift, a teenage genius born into a family of inventors, has had a wide following for decades, spanning some 100-plus installments in numerous genres. At its core has always been young Tom’s knack for problem solving and fantastical inventions.

The series has generated sales of more than 20 million copies. It was originated by Edward Stratemeyer, best known for producing such successful syndicate franchises as “The Bobbsey Twins,” “The Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew,” and were written by a number of ghostwriters over the years under the pseudonym Victor Appleton.

“I grew up basically reading comicbooks and Tom Swift,” Hecht said. “The books always gave you something unexpected and brought the reader this feeling that ‘I can be an inventor. I can do that.'” Because of the property’s heritage and family nature, Hecht said it would have the “boomer equity” that has boosted the B.O. of many recent franchises.

The earliest installments, dating to 1910, “have a kind of a Jules Verne feel, where they’re talking about inventions that have actually now happened,” Hecht said. Those early ones have titles like “Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle.” Eventually, the series was modernized and taken in more of an edgy, graphic-novel direction.

The visual approach could be a live action-CGI combo or motion-capture, Hecht said, and the initial concept is to posit that Swift Industries is now a leading “green technology” company, giving the 20th century series a modern twist.

Hecht produced “Naked Brothers Band,” a multiplatform show now posting strong numbers as a series for Nick, on the heels of sizable iTunes download efforts and a primetime TV movie.

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