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Endgame puts up coin for ‘It’ pic

Branagh, Wanamaker, Highmore to star in adaptation

Jim Stern’s Endgame Entertainment has become co-financier of “Five Children and It,” an adaptation of the Edith Nesbit novel that just started production.

Endgame will share the cost with U.K.’s Capitol Films and will hold North American distrib rights on the film, which stars Kenneth Branagh, Zoe Wanamaker and Freddie Highmore, with Eddie Izzard providing the voice of creature It.

John Stephenson (“Animal Farm”) is directing David Solomon’s script, and Lisa Henson and Nick Hirschkorn are producing. Capitol’s Sharon Harel and Jane Barclay seeded the production.

The film follows the adventures of five London kids during WWI as they are sent to live with an eccentric uncle (Branagh) in his dilapidated mansion by the sea. There the kids encounter a wish-granting sand fairy.

Stern, part owner of the Chicago Bulls and Tony-winning producer of “The Producers” and “Hairspray,” said the book’s subject matter and script made “Five Children and It” an irresistible investment.

“It is a commercial film with a chance to break out,” Stern said. “What it shares with other children’s films based on literature that do well is that the heroes are kids who survive through their wits. It’s not ‘Harry Potter,’ but the book was an influence on its author, J.K. Rowling. There is merchandising and DVD potential as well.”

Stern wasn’t sure if Endgame would make an early U.S. distrib deal or wait until the film is shot. The company also contributed financing for the Artisan pic “Compleat Female Stage Beauty” and the New Line/Senator comedy “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” but those investments were bridge loans.

Engdame will continue to provide financing as it readies the eight homegrown projects it has in development.

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