‘Rugrats’ hits the boards

NEW YORK —- “Rugrats,” the highest-rated animated series on cable TV, will become a live theatrical touring show next year, thanks to a deal between Nickelodeon and the Pace Theatrical Group.

“This will be a real theatrical show, not just a character parade,” says Jonathan Hochwald, VP of business development for the Pace group. “There’ll be a storyline and music.” One source says the touring production will cost between $2 million and $2.5 million.

Matt Palmer, director of marketing for the Orlando-based Nickelodeon Recreation, says, “We’ve operated a number of touring shows based on Nickelodeon properties over the last five years or so,” citing “Double Dare,” “Nickelodeon Live” and “Mess-a-Mania” as three projects that “started as marketing tools to perpretuate the Nickelodeon brand by increasing its exposure.” They did so well in theaters and arenas, Palmer says, that “tourning has ended up as a real business for us.”

But the “Rugrats” “show will take Nickelodeon to the next level,” says Hochwald.

Key property

” ‘Rugrats’ ” is a key property for us, with huge audience appeal,” says Scott Davis, executive VP of MTV Networks Recreation (Nickelodeon is one of the MTV Networks.). “We’re now working on an animated feature film” of “Rugrats,” which Paramount will distribute next year, allowing for cross promotion with the touring show. Nickelodeon will also start filming new animated half-hour episodes of “Rugrats.”

Pace is one of the biggest producers of live entertainment in North America, controlling a network of theaters in 26 cities. Hochwald says, “We hope ‘Rugrats’ will be the first of many future touring shows we produce with Nickelodeon,” drawing on such high-visibility Nick projects as “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “Doug,” “Aaahh! Real Monsters,” “Hey Arnold” and “Ren & Stimpy.”

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