Studio nabs rights for live-action film

Sony Pictures Entertainment has won out in spirited bidding for the ’30s comicstrip “Flash Gordon,” negotiating with Hearst for the rights to make a live-action film.

Breck Eisner (“Sahara”) is attached to direct. Neal Moritz will produce through his Sony-based Original Films banner.

Deal being negotiated is for high six figures against seven figures if the film gets made.

“Flash Gordon” was turned into a 1980 film that starred Sam Jones. Hearst Corp.’s King Features Syndicate optioned the property to Universal four years ago, with “The Mummy” director Stephen Sommers and his partner Bob Ducsay to produce. Those rights reverted back to Hearst.

Eisner had been attached to direct that version of the movie. When the rights reverted, he teamed with Moritz. Eisner will also exec produce.

In the wake of “Iron Man’s” success, studios are showing a heightened appetite for branded fare that could be made into a franchise. Deal comes two weeks after Nu Image/Millennium Films acquired film rights from the John Flint Dille Trust to mount a live-action feature based on the classic property “Buck Rogers.”

In the original incarnation of “Flash Gordon,” the 1934 comicstrip created by Alex Raymond, Flash was a handsome polo player who is kidnapped and taken to the planet Mongo. He is pitted against an evil ruler named Ming the Merciless. Comicstrip became the basis of a successful movie serial in that era that starred Buster Crabbe, who later played Buck Rogers.

“Flash Gordon” has had numerous lives on the smallscreen, most recently in the contempo Sci Fi Channel series starring Eric Johnson.

Helmer Eisner is also developing a remake of “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” at Universal and a redo of George Romero’s “The Crazies” at Rogue. He recently directed an episode of the upcoming NBC horror anthology series “Fear Itself.”

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