CAA shopping vidgame property after New Line puts project into turnaround

Plans to turn Epic Games’ “Gears of War” into a film franchise are being revived.

In development at New Line since 2007, with Len Wiseman once attached to helm, the studio has now put the military actioner into turnaround to focus instead on “The Hobbit” films. But with “Gears” having generated more than $1 billion in sales since the first game bowed in 2006, and a fourth set for release next year, Creative Artists Agency is eager to meet with producers in the coming weeks and set up the project elsewhere, Variety has learned.

“Twilight” producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey were previously attached to the adaptation, while Stuart Beattie (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) penned the most recent version of the screenplay, which CAA is expected to turn to in its discussions. Chris Morgan and Billy Ray also had worked on “Gears” scripts.

CAA reps both Epic Games and Beattie.

While a “Halo” movie from Microsoft is still in development — Beattie wrote a draft of the film — “Gears” is another top property for the gamemaker that could lend itself to the kind of world-building Hollywood is looking for when launching new franchises with built-in brand awareness. Property is exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console.

“Gears,” with its strong visual style, revolves around muscle-bound human soldiers tasked with protecting the planet Sera from alien creatures known as the Locust Horde.

Epic is expected to consult on the “Gears” pic to make sure it ties into the canon established by the games and books. A line of collectible toys also has been released.

Interest in “Gears” is picking up right as the game’s lead designer Cliff Bleszinski unexpectedly announced last week that he is leaving North Carolina-based Epic Games after 20 years with the company. The exec, known as “Cliffy B” by the gaming community, had been instrumental in all aspects of the design and promotion of the company’s games.

His departure comes as Epic is readying to release the series’ fourth installment, “Gears of War: Judgment” next year, and after Epic sold a minority stake in the company to Chinese Internet giant Tencent this summer. Size of the investment has not been disclosed, but deal enables Tencent to cash in on sales of Unreal Engine, the software used for games like “Batman: Arkham City” and “Mass Effect 3,” licensed by other publishers.

Legendary Entertainment considered purchasing the company in 2008.

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