Lowry's novel finally makes it to production

In a high-six-figure against $1 million deal, Warner Bros. has acquired screen rights to Lois Lowry’s Newbery Award-winning novel “The Giver.” Red Wagon partners Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher will produce.

Deal gives a new lease on life for a feature adaptation of a beloved novel that has been under continuous option since its publication to great fanfare in 1994 but never made it to a production start.

“We’ve spoken to so many filmmakers who brought up the book because they’d shared it with their children,” Wick said. “When we heard it was available, we did our best to make sure it didn’t get away. We feel very confident that one of these filmmakers will want to join us.”

The book also had fans at Warner Bros. Screen rights reverted back to Lowry on March 1; Warner had a preemptive offer on the table by Saturday, and struck a deal that evening once Lowry was tracked down on vacation in Florida by her agent, Harold Ober’s Don Laventhall.

Story follows a 12-year-old boy living in a futuristic, emotionally suppressed utopian society. He’s selected to bear his community’s emotional history; as he’s loaded up with long-discarded feelings like fear and pleasure, the youth realizes that living a pain-free life comes at a high cost.

“The Giver” was optioned by Lancit Media right after publication, to be followed by RCN Entertainment. Both went out of business, and producer Nicole Silver took it and teamed with Jeff Bridges. They controlled the project for more than a decade, getting close on a version that Vadim Perelman wrote and was going to direct for Fox and Walden Media until the latter balked.

The first deal wasn’t a rich one — the new pact increases the payday tenfold — but the original pact included a reversion clause triggered if “The Giver” was not in production seven years after its option agreement translated into an outright purchase. That deadline passed March 8. Laventhall, a film exec before he became head of film rights at Ober, spent two years working for Wick and Fisher. He knew the married producers read the book to their children and that it was important to them.

“We didn’t know if anyone would be interested after all that time, but we also felt that Doug and Lucy were a strong match for this,” Laventhall said. “We empathized with the original producers, but 13 years had come and gone. Warner Bros. came in with such a confidence-building preemptive offer that we had to make the deal.”

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