You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hit Entertainment gets into movie biz

Kidvidder's first film will be 'Thomas' adaptation

NEW YORK — Hit Entertainment, the kidvid mainstay known for “Thomas the Tank Engine,” “Barney and Friends” and “Bob the Builder,” has launched a movie division.

Hit Movies is starting with adaptations of the company’s TV portfolio, but the gameplan is to evolve into a broader-ranging family film shop. First up is “Thomas,” which is aimed for a late 2010 release.

Films will be mostly live action (except for a traditional animated take on “Angelina Ballerina”) and encompass a wide range of budgets.

Julia Pistor, a Nickelodeon vet who steered Paramount’s hit “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Rugrats” features, has been tapped to head Hit Movies, which is based in Los Angeles. Hit has offices in Gotham and London.

“We’re not making preschool movies or making movies just to have feature-length TV episodes,” Pistor said. “We’re looking to tell stories that are compelling to the whole family.”

Hit has undergone major changes since it was taken over by private-equity firm Apax Partners in 2005 for just shy of $1 billion. It had total consumer products revenue, including homevid, of $2 billion in 2008, according to License Global.

Chief exec Jeffrey Dunn, also a Nickelodeon vet, took the reins last year and has engineered a series of deals — domestic homevid distribution with Lionsgate, toys with Fisher-Price and a few more.

Armed with a few natural marketing hooks — “Bob” turns 10 this year, “Barney” hit 20 last year, and “Thomas” will mark his 65th anniversary in 2010 — the goal has been to push out into new arenas, and that now means movie theaters.

UTA has been brought on to advise the company on strategy and to help launch Hit Movies. The agency will steer some of its talent toward Hit projects and help ensure that titles get proper handling by Hollywood. (No distrib deals are set yet, and an overall output deal is unlikely at this stage.)

“Having the kind of brand equity they have in the world we’re in is extremely valuable,” UTA partner Jeremy Zimmer said. “They have characteristics that help them go well beyond the preschool space.”

There are countervailing trends in the family biz. There has been the overall surge in revenue and sophistication of all-ages fare since the “Harry Potter” franchise, DreamWorks and Pixar pointed the way, but the economic crisis has limited Hit’s liquidity and accelerated the decline of DVD sales.

“You have to be disciplined,” Dunn said about the financial outlook for films. “We’re not going to cheap out, and we’re not going to wig out.”

More Scene

  • Dan Stevens

    'Legion' Star Dan Stevens Says His Character Would Fight Thanos, 'Wreak Havoc' in MCU

    Dan Stevens said his powerful, telepathic mutant Legion would do some serious damage if he ever crossed over from the eponymous FX series into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Legion would wreak havoc. He’d probably take on Thanos, let’s see that,” he told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of the trippy, mind-bending superhero series [...]

  • Anthony Anderson LADF

    Why Anthony Anderson and Billie Jean King are Giving Back with the Dodgers Foundation

    Celebrities and athletes came together at the Dodgers Foundation Blue Diamond Gala to celebrate the team’s commitment to supporting youth and to catch a glimpse of the event’s headliner: Bruno Mars. Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss were honored at the fifth annual event, which raised over $3 million for programs benefiting Los Angeles youth. [...]

  • Shia LaBeouf poses at the premiere

    Shia LaBeouf to Host Birthday Fundraiser for Slauson Rec. Theater Company

    Shia LaBeouf is celebrating his 33rd birthday by giving back. The actor, who turned 33 on June 11, will host a fundraising concert later this month for the Slauson Rec Theater Company, a 10-month-old free performing arts program he co-founded in downtown Los Angeles. The night will also include a preview of the Slauson Rec [...]

  • Awkwafina, Lulu Wang Celebrate New York

    Awkwafina Wants 'The Farewell' to Break Boundaries of Cultural Differences

    Family dysfunction is universal despite cultural differences. That’s what writer and director Lulu Wang wants audiences to take away from her film “The Farewell” starring Awkwafina. “This movie will teach us universality out of specificity. There’s something that we can all kind of relate to across cultures. There’s something we still have to learn about [...]

  • Elizabeth Debicki

    Elizabeth Debicki Talks About Being Supported by Other Women in Hollywood

    Elizabeth Debicki is looking to the future — which makes sense, since she was named Women in Film and Max Mara’s “Face of the Future” for 2019. “No pressure,” Debicki laughed when Variety asked the actress about the honor on the red carpet. “It means a great deal. I have always deeply respected the work [...]

  • Carla Gugino Jett

    How Carla Gugino Is Redefining the Anti-Hero in Cinemax's Crime Drama 'Jett'

    “This is like no character I’ve ever played,” Carla Gugino told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of Cinemax’s “Jett” on Tuesday night. “I think television is filled with great roles for women, which is such a godsend these days. But the anti-hero — there’s still a double standard there.” In the new series, Gugino [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content