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New Line digs ‘Dungeons’ pic

Role-playing game reaches the big screen

New Line Cinema has paid north of $5 million for the domestic distribution rights to tyro helmer Courtney Solomon’s “Dungeons and Dragons: The Movie,” based on the classic fantasy-adventure game.

The $36 million pic stars Jeremy Irons, Thora Birch, Marlan Wayans, Justin Whalin and Richard O’Brien.

Joel Silver (“The Matrix”) exec produced the film, which was produced by Solomon via his Sweetpea Entertainment. Warner Bros. had a first-look window to acquire the pic and passed, which led to an industrywide screening. Fine Line prexy Mark Ordesky and veep Arianna Bocco, who lead acquisition for New Line, swooped in to pick it up for the studio.

Steve Richards brought the project into Warner Bros.-based Silver Pictures and oversaw it.

Company has also secured an option to make a potential prequel and sequel, as well as other ancillary rights including cable, pay and network television.

“Dungeons and Dragons” is one of the best-known fantasy titles in existence. Game has generated more than a billion dollars in sales worldwide, which includes publication of more than 400 books based on the game and an array of licensed products.

“For millions of people worldwide, ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ has been the ultimate fantasy game for more than 25 years,” said Mark Ordesky, prexy of Fine Line Features and head of acquisitions for New Line. “This film will deliver for die-hard fans as well as those who have never been exposed to this epic world of magic, sorcery and adventure.”

Ordesky also noted that the title carries considerable nostalgic factors, appealing to nearly three generations of consumers worldwide.

“With New Line’s great track record releasing genre films, and their experience with ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ I think they are the perfect match for ‘Dungeons and Dragons,” Solomon said.

Solomon is a first-time filmmaker who began developing the concept for a movie version of ‘Dungeons’ while still in high school. A native of Toronto, he optioned the film rights from TSR when he was 21. Subsequently, he attracted interest from Hong Kong-based financier Allan Zeman, who funded the pic.

‘Puppet’ man

Solomon is developing a film adaptation of bestselling comic book “Gen 13” as well as “The Bell Witch” and “The Herald.” He is also developing the computer generated live-action feature “Puppetland.”

Silver’s producing credits include the “Lethal Weapon” series, “Die Hard” and “Die Hard 2: Die Harder,” “Predator,” “Commando,” “48 Hrs.,” “Conspiracy Theory” and “Executive Decision.”

New Line senior veep of business affairs Suzanne Rosencrans negotiated the acquisitions agreement on behalf of the studio. Solomon is repped by attorney Sheri Jeffrey, Joe Gatta and David Gersh at the Gersh Agency.

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