'Passage' will be first film in three-book series

In a seven-figure deal that shows Hollywood continues to be a sucker for a good vampire tale, Fox 2000 and Scott Free beat out three other studios to acquire screen rights to a bloodsucker trilogy by Jordan Ainsley that begins with “The Passage.”

The three-book series sold to Ballantine for $3.75 million, based on a 400-page partial manuscript and an outline. The film caught the fancy of Ridley Scott, though it was not immediately clear whether he will direct it.

Ainsley is a pseudonym for Justin Cronin, the PEN Hemingway Award and Stephen Crane Prize-winning author of the literary novel “Mary and O’Neil.” With “The Passage,” he has created an apocalyptic tale that has elements of “28 Weeks Later” and the Stephen King novel “The Stand.”

When terminally ill cancer patients get healthy after being bitten by bats in South America, the government conducts secret tests with human subjects to see if a virus can cure illness. Instead, it unleashes a swarm of bloodthirsty vampires out of the test subjects, which include death row inmates.

The first installment will be published in summer, 2009.

Fox 2000′s Rodney Ferrell got an early peek at the book as it made the rounds with publishers.

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