A fortunate event for Handler

Nick, Activision pact for 'Snicket' vidgames

Nickelodeon Films has licensed publisher Activision to create vidgames of its upcoming movie with Paramount based on Daniel Handler’s children’s books “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Under the deal, which runs through 2005 with automatic extensions for a sequel, Activision is creating games for all three major console platforms from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, for Windows-based PCs and for Nintendo’s handheld Game Boy Advance. The entire suite of game offerings are scheduled to debut with the movie next holiday season, said Steve Youngwood, VP of media products for Nickelodeon Consumer Products.

“We view it as a long-term franchise, and the first games would be built off the movie,” Youngwood said. “To make it a compelling game, we believe it needs to be an extension.”

Though 13 to 14 months is a tight turnaround time to create titles for any platform other than Game Boy Advance, Youngwood said the two sides have been working for several weeks on initial design and development, including market research, story concepts and building 3-D backdrops and characters.

The games will be mystery adventures based on plot points in the first three books and the movie, which revolve around the misadventures of three orphaned children.

“The nature of them trying to get through these events really lends itself to adventure,” said Kathy Vrabeck, Activision exec VP of global publishing and brand management. “We like the rich world of the content of the books. We think it will make for great gameplay.”

Youngwood said Nick picked Activision in part because of its success this year with “Spider-Man” games, which received broad critical acclaim. Activision has sold more than $80 million of “Spider-Man” games across all platforms, according to market watcher NPD TRST. Activision also is creating games tied to the May release of “X-Men” sequel “”Wolverine’s Revenge.”

“We saw what they’ve done,” Youngwood said. “They clearly are one of the experts at making movie franchises as big as they can be.”

Barry Sonnenfeld is helming the “Snicket” pic, and Scott Rudin is producing for Paramount and Nickelodeon Films. Jim Carrey, who previously teamed with Rudin on “The Truman Show,” has been negotiating to play Count Olaf, a mysterious character who schemes to steal the orphans’ inheritance.

Handler is handling the screenplay. He also has written an “unauthorized biography” of Lemony Snicket.

On Tuesday, Harper Collins debuted the ninth book in the best-selling series since 1999.