Sanders banner will develop, produce stage versions of Sony pics

Making a major move into legit, Sony Pictures Entertainment has signed a five-year overall deal with Scott Sanders Theatrical Prods. to develop and produce stage versions of Sony films and has purchased a 20% stake in Sanders’ company.

Scott Sanders Theatrical Prods. will have a first-look deal at Sony and serve as the studio’s primary theatrical consultant to help set up titles with other producers.

Sony’s investment in Sanders’ company is aimed in part at opening up the studio’s film library for stage adaptations.

First project to come out of the partnership is a stage production based on Sony’s 1982 feature “Tootsie,” which starred Dustin Hoffman.

“Expanding our successful relationship with Scott Sanders was the natural next step that provides the studio with a talented Broadway partner to help bring our film and TV libraries to the stage and further diversify the studio’s entertainment offerings,” said SPE chairman-CEO Michael Lynton.

Sanders is the founder and CEO of New York-based Scott Sanders Theatrical Prods. Original private equity partners are Robert Kraft, David Kraft, Roy Furman and Jim Fantaci.

“Sony Pictures has given the world some of the most exciting and compelling films in history,” Sanders said a statement. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such extraordinary source material and to mine it for titles that make sense for theatrical adaptation. Our goal is to rediscover stories and characters which speak to the human experience and that audiences want to see again, but from a new perspective.”

As part of the deal, Sony president of worldwide music Lia Vollack has expanded her duties to include a newly created post as exec VP of theatrical. She will oversee the studio’s theatrical productions and serve as the studio liaison with Sanders. “Expanding into live theater offers Sony the opportunity to add another dimension to our film and TV properties, and I’m very excited about working with Scott Sanders to breathe new life into some of our most beloved characters and franchises,” she said.

Sanders has tapped Sandy Block, who served as chief creative officer of Serino/Coyne, as producer-VP of theater.

SSTP is developing “Houdini” as an upcoming stage production with Aaron Sorkin, Stephen Schwartz and Hugh Jackman, and its current production of “Evita,” starring Ricky Martin, has remained among the five top-grossing shows on Broadway since its first week of previews on March 12.

Sanders’ other recent stage productions include “The Color Purple,” “Elaine Stritch: At Liberty” and “The Pee-Wee Herman Show.”

Sony’s move comes with other studios having expanded into stage production: Disney with “Mary Poppins,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” among others; Universal with “Wicked”; and Warner Bros. with “Elf.”

Sanders is also a producer on Disney’s “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.” He has a first-look feature deal at Disney.

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