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Fox TV rewinds Allen’s sci-fi hits

'Lost,' 'Tunnel,' 'Voyage,' 'Giants' reawakened

Producers Kevin Burns and Jon Jashni have finalized a seven-figure production pact with 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Television Studios that’s designed to breathe new life into a quartet of classic Irwin Allen properties.

Burns and Jashni, whose Synthesis Entertainment manages the interests of the Allen estate, will work with 20th, FTVS and other News Corp. units to create new TV and film versions of “Lost in Space,” “The Time Tunnel,” “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and “Land of the Giants.”

Already in the works: A new series take on “Time Tunnel” for Fox and a two-hour NBC telepic/backdoor pilot based on a new generation of characters who end up “Lost in Space.”

Deal comes in the wake of Burns and Jashni pacting with Sheila Allen and the Allen estate to jointly represent the estate’s interests and essentially become Allen’s creative proxy. Once that agreement was in place, Burns and Jashni formed Synthesis and went to 20th and FTVS to pitch their plans for reviving the Allen titles, with 20th business affairs topper Howard Kurtzman helping put all the parties on the same page.

“They totally saw our vision,” said Burns, who’s been a fan of the Allen skeins since he was a teenager. “Fox trusted Jon and I as producers to shepherd these properties from a creative and commercial standpoint.”

Pact contains three major components:

  • A renewal of 20th Television’s off-net rights to distribute the original 83 episodes of “Lost in Space,” which ran on CBS from 1965-68.

  • A production agreement to revive “Time Tunnel,” “Voyage” and “Land of the Giants.” While 20th co-owned the three titles as the original producer of the shows, it needed Allen’s estate onboard in order to move forward with new incarnations.

    Rand Ravich and Todd Holland are exec producing the new “Time Tunnel,” along with Burns, Jashni and Andrew Lazar. Skein is a co-production of 20th and Regency TV.

  • A new production agreement to revive “Lost in Space.” Rights to the title had been at New Line, which developed the property into a 1998 feature.

Deal also covers potential feature films, merchandising and licensing.

“It has always been my intent to not only preserve but also expand upon Irwin’s legacy,” Sheila Allen said. “This is the team that can extend his vision across an entirely new realm of epic television.”

FTVS topper David Grant said with all the rights issues hammered out, all parties involved in the deal can concentrate on creative ways to revive and extend Allen’s original concepts.

“They’re all classic properties beloved by people in the baby boom generation,” Grant told Daily Variety. “And the things that made them instantly recognizable to baby boomers will make them appealing to a new generation. It’s up to us to come up with first-rate, quality reinterpretations.”

While “Time” and “Lost” are the first of the four properties to get new life, Burns and Jashni hope to figure out new ways to use the ideas behind “Voyage” and “Land.” Timing, however, is essential in order to avoid flooding the market.

“It’s akin to us being the guardians of four uniquely beautiful daughters,” Jashni said. “You’re not going to bring them all to the ball at once.”

Gary Newman, prexy of 20th, said the studio has been seeking new ways to better exploit its library assets. What’s more, the Allen properties manage to combine the positive attributes of franchise dramas and character-driven hours.

“What’s great about these shows is that you’re able to tell self-contained stories without going over the same old ground of doctor or lawyer shows,” he said. “You have continuing stories as well as a chance for your characters to develop and evolve.”

While the Allen titles helped lead to the creation of Synthesis, Jashni said the company will work to develop and produce other projects. “This is priming the pump for us,” he said. “It’s a great kickstart.”

Burns and Jashni already had a long relationship with Fox before the Synthesis deal.

Jashni worked as a film production exec at 20th Century Fox, serving as exec in charge of production for the Drew Barrymore starrer “Ever After.” His other feature credits include “Anna and the King,” “The Hurricane” and the upcoming Reese Witherspoon vehicle “Sweet Home Alabama” from Touchstone.

Burns and his Prometheus Entertainment banner have an overall deal at FTVS, producing several dozen nonfiction hours annually for A&E, AMC and the History Channel.

In addition to Kurtzman, the Synthesis/Fox deal was brokered by Endeavor and attorney Michael Schenkman. The Allen estate was repped by Hal Friedman and Kim Swartz.

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