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‘My Little Pony’ Movie in the Works at Hasbro Studios (EXCLUSIVE)

Film will join 'Jem and the Holograms' as the first to be produced through Allspark Pictures

Hasbro Studios has given the greenlight to a “My Little Pony” movie, with plans to release the animated film in 2017.

The film will join “Jem and the Holograms” as the first to be produced through Allspark Pictures, a new label through which the company will self-finance or pair up with other companies to co-finance a slate of film projects.

Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Prods. already is co-producing the live action “Jem,” with Universal Pictures co-financing the movie’s budget. The studio has dated the film for release on Oct. 23, 2015.

Hasbro Studios will take the reins of “My Little Pony,” producing and financing it inhouse. It is in discussion with studios to release the film “on the broadest possible number of screens,” said Stephen Davis, president of Hasbro Studios and global entertainment and licensing for Hasbro Inc. “We’re very excited about the potential of that movie.”

Joe Ballarini, who previously wrote “Atlantis 7” for Walden Media, 21 Laps and Gotham Group; “Lockdown at Franklin High” for Sony;  and was recently tapped to adapt the graphic novel “Cardboard” for Fox Animation; will pen the script for the “Pony” pic, while Megan McCarthy, who produces and has written for the series “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” and straight-to-homevideo “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls” films, will serve as co-executive producer on the theatrical movie. Ballarini is repped by Paradigm and Apostle.

Introduced in 1983 and developed by Bonnie Zacherle, Charles Muenchinger and Steve D’Aguanno, the “My Little Pony” characters have colorful bodies, manes and distinguishing “cutie marks” on their flanks. The property has launched four animated series and been revamped over the years, enjoying strong sales in the 1980s and then again in 2010, with its popularity driven by well-received shows.

“Jem” is a musical fantasy that reimagines Jem amid the current hyperlinked social media era in a story of a small-town girl going from underground video sensation to global superstar with her three sisters.

Jon M. Chu directed from Ryan Landels’ script with Aubrey Peeples as the lead. Stefanie Scott, Aurora Perrineau, Hayley Kiyoko, Ryan Guzman, Molly Ringwald and Juliette Lewis also star.

Hasbro also is partners with Blumhouse on its next film, “Ouija,” out in theaters Oct. 24 through Universal. Stiles White directed the thriller that’s based on Hasbro’s game.

Hasbro has no plans to turn its back on big-budget franchises.

“We will continue to make big tentpole movies with our studio partners,” Davis said of franchises like “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe,” at Paramount, and “Monopoly” and “Candy Land” at Sony, “but there is another set of movies where we feel we have an opportunity to have a bit more control over the budgeting, financing, calendarization, marketing and creative of our films. There are new economic models that fit certain films.”

With “My Little Pony,” Hasbro already has produced direct-to-homevideo animated movies and is producing the 100th episode of the franchise’s current TV series that plays on kids cable channel Discovery Family, formerly the Hub, in the U.S., and in over 180 countries worldwide. The Hub switched to Discovery Family on Oct. 13.

“We have a lot of experience working on this particular brand,” and when it comes to producing the animation, technology has brought down costs to a level where it doesn’t need to spend $100 million or more to make the film. Hasbro declined to disclose the budget on the “Pony” pic.

“Film and TV is a key driver and very important part of the building blocks for a company like Hasbro,” Davis said. “It’s where we want to use great stories to activate our brands.”

Hasbro’s girls segment, which includes “My Little Pony,” “Nerf Rebelle” and other toy lines, saw sales increase 5% to $407.7 million during the company’s third quarter, whose results were announced Monday, during which overall revenue increased 7% to $1.47 billion.

For more on Hasbro’s film strategy, please see Tuesday’s edition of Variety.

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