Studio aims to begin production in March for 2014 release

With Summit Entertainment’s lucrative “Twilight” series coming to a close this fall, the studio is ramping up the futuristic “Divergent” — the beginning of what it hopes will be its next teen franchise — as “Limitless” helmer Neil Burger is in early talks to direct for the studio.

Summit had no comment.

Sources tell Variety that Burger has edged out several high-profile filmmakers for the job. Summit is planning to start production in March with the aim of releasing the pic in the first quarter of 2014.

The first of a planned trilogy by 24-year-old author Veronica Roth, “Divergent” was acquired by Summit in March 2011, two months before the young adult novel was published by Katherine Tegen Books, a division of HarperCollins Children’s Books. It quickly made the New York Times’ bestseller list and has sold 1.3 million copies.

Summit also has rights to sequel “Insurgent,” released in May. The untitled third book in the trilogy is due out in fall 2013.

“Divergent” has drawn comparisons to Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” series due to its teen-on-teen violence in a futuristic setting. Protag is 16-year-old Beatrice Prior, who lives in a world where society is divided into five factions that each represent a particular virtue: honesty, selflessness, bravery, peacefulness and intelligence.

Red Wagon topper Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher are producing the dystopian thriller with Pouya Shabazian of FinePrint Prods. “Snow White and the Huntsman” scribe Evan Daugherty was hired to adapt the book last summer.

Summit’s Erik Feig, Gillian Bohrer and Jeyun Choi are overseeing the project for the company along with Rachel Shane on behalf of Red Wagon, which has John Hillcoat’s “Lawless” and Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” on the horizon.

Burger has been in demand coming off the surprise success of Relativity Media’s modestly budgeted sleeper “Limitless,” which grossed $161 million worldwide. Prior to that, he directed “The Illusionist,” a low-budget period pic that grossed $87 million worldwide.

CAA-repped helmer, who is no longer attached to direct Sony’s “Uncharted,” recently signed on to direct a feature adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s short story “Animal Rescue” for Fox Searchlight and Chernin Entertainment. Should a deal make, “Divergent” is likely to serve as Burger’s follow-up to “Limitless.”

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