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HBO, American Girl pact

Picturehouse will release live-action pic

HBO has sealed a hefty overall deal with American Girl — the children’s retailer behind a popular series of life-like dolls — that encompasses feature films, as well as series, specials and documentaries.

As part of the new pact, Picturehouse, the joint venture between HBO and New Line Cinema, will release the first-ever “American Girl” live-action theatrical film.

Feature, based on the historical “American Girl” character Kit Kittredge, will be produced by Goldsmith-Thomas Prods. and Julia Roberts’ Red Om Films (Daily Variety, July 25). Production will begin this summer on the pic, which revolves around a 9-year-old girl who endures hardships growing up during the Great Depression. A release date hasn’t been set.

Walden Media, originally set to finance the project, is no longer involved and has parted ways with American Girl.

HBO Films prexy Colin Callender and American Girl topper Ellen L. Brothers announced the alliance Monday. Callender noted that the “American Girl” brand – which includes stores in New York, L.A. and Chicago – had “become an extraordinary phenomenon in recent years.”

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to align the forces of both the HBO and ‘American Girl’ brands in a ground breaking collaboration that will enable us to take advantage of the rapidly expanding, multi-platform, multi-faceted promotional opportunities spanning all areas of distribution.”

Picturehouse president Bob Berney said Kit Kittredge – the seventh “American Girl” historical character, introduced in 2000 – and her stories “teach the importance of giving to those who are less fortunate.”

“Kitt Kittredge is a wonderful character – a spirited young girl living in difficult times,” he said.

Ann Peacock (HBO’s “A Lesson Before Dying”) is writing the Kit Kittredge film. HBO Films senior VP Julie Goldstein has been named the exec in charge of the production.

The film continues the relationship between Goldsmith-Thomas Prods., Red Om and “American Girl,” which produced two telepics for the late WB network (“Samantha: An American Girl Holiday” and “Felicity: An American Girl Adventure”), as well as one for the Disney Channel (“Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front”).

Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Marisa Yeres will produce for Goldsmith-Thomas, while Roberts and Lisa Gillian are producing for Red Om.

Launched in 1986, American Girl is a wholly-owned subsid of Mattel.

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