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Miramax betting on Bionicle

Mini-major loads up Lego legions

Even before the first two films have been released, Miramax Films has greenlit a third movie based on the Bionicle line of toys.

The first film, the computer-animated “Bionicle: Mask of Light,” will make a DVD premiere on Sept. 16. The second, another CGI effort, is targeted for theatrical release; it’s still in story development, with a planned release in late 2005/early 2006. Those two were produced by Lego Media Intl.’s Create TV & Film company.

Last year, Miramax had signed on as worldwide distributor of the movies.

But in the new venture, Miramax is a producing partner with Lego Media. The new project is targeted for an earlier release than No. 2: The new pic will be released exclusively on DVD, in fall 2004, at least a year ahead of the theatrical film. Budgets for the direct-to-DVD are estimated at $5 million each.

‘Rich storylines’

” ‘Bionicle’s’ rich storylines and complex characters really capture its audience’s attention,” said Miramax co-chief Harvey Weinstein. “As millions of fans around the world will attest, once you’re immersed in Bionicle, there’s no turning back.”

The Lego Co. in 2000 launched the Bionicle product line (the confluence of “biological” and “chronicle”) as action figures, with related Web sites, comicbooks and trading cards. The Bionicle success “is bigger than any of us ever imagined,” said Miramax VP of acquisitions Jeff Tahler, noting that 40 million people worldwide have purchased a Bionicle product. “We had a window of opportunity,” said Tahler. “After we saw the first one and the excitement it was creating with fans, we didn’t want to lose the momentum.”

Miramax has enjoyed great success with family franchises like “Spy Kids” and “Pokemon” and on homevideo with the “Air Bud” and “MVP” series of movies produced exclusively for DVD.

More involvement

The co-producing deal will give Miramax more involvement in the creative development on the movie with Lego and the original production team at L.A.-based Creative Capers Entertainment.

“When we started to develop the theatrical film, the creative sparks began to fly, and we knew we had found our kindred spirits on this property,” said Conny Kalcher, Lego VP of global innovation and marketing. “They really get it. Harvey Weinstein and his talented team, especially (exec VP) Kevin Kasha and Jeff Tahler, are really just big ‘Bionicle’ boys at heart, and they are eager to increase their involvement on the second DVD movie.”

In 2001 toymaker Mattel launched a successful series of computer-animated movies based on Barbie; the first two have sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. and won DVD Exclusive Awards for animated DVD premiere movie, score and character, while becoming integral to launches of new Barbie products related to the theme of the movies.

Tahler said they expect the “Bionicle” DVD premiere movies  to be even bigger than the “Barbie” movies since there will be a theatrical film as well.

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