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Shyamalan’s ‘Avatar’ also to bigscreen

Filmmaker to create his version of Nick series

M. Night Shyamalan and Paramount are planning their own “Avatar” project, based on the popular Nickelodeon kids TV series.

The filmmaker has inked a three-picture deal with Par’s MTV Films and Nick Movies to adapt animated kiddie skein “Avatar: The Last Airbender” for the bigscreen. He will write, direct and produce the potential kids franchise.

Film version will be live-action.

Nick TV’s “Avatar,” which is set in an Asian-influenced fantasy world permeated by martial arts and magic, follows the adventures of the successor to a long line of Avatars who must put aside his irresponsible ways and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations.

Created by Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, “Avatar” debuted on the Nicktoons lineup in February 2005. Aimed at 6- to 11-year-olds, show has nabbed strong ratings, including outside its intended demo. It is among the top 10 animated series on all of TV among kids 6-11 and tweens 9-14.

Paramount confirmed the pact with Shyamalan just hours after Fox Filmed Entertainment announced it is greenlighting James Cameron’s “Avatar,” the director’s first feature since “Titanic.”

Although they may have the same name, the two projects have nothing to do with each other in terms of storylines. Cameron’s is a sci-fi action-adventure that he’s been working on for 11 years.

Par said it has registered the name of its project with the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

A Fox rep said, “We own the movie title ‘Avatar.’ There won’t be another film called ‘Avatar’ coming from anyplace.”

MTV Films and Nick Movies prexy Scott Aversano, who reports to Paramount prexy Gail Berman, was instrumental in striking the pact with Shyamalan.

“Avatar” marks the first time Shyamalan has taken on a project that didn’t originate from his own source material. He is also shopping other projects, so “Avatar” may not be the first into production.

Shyamalan took “Lady in the Water” to Warner Bros. after a bitter break with Disney, which had passed on the pic. He dissed some at the Mouse House in a book that was published just as Warners opened “Lady,” which fell flat at the summer box office.

Shyamalan is repped by CAA.

(Gabriel Snyder contributed to this report.)

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