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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' sequel locks down star, lands director

June 16, 2011 |  6:01 pm

Percy
EXCLUSIVE: "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" was a reasonably sized hit when it came out in the winter of 2010: The mythology-infused film based on Rick Riordan's bestseller drew $89 million in U.S. box office and another $137 million around the world.

Now a sequel hopes to build on that fan base.

According to a source familiar with the production who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of discussions, studio Fox 2000 has exercised the option on star Logan Lerman, essentially meaning that the young actor is locked down to reprise his role as Percy Jackson in a new picture. The company has also hired a director in Thor Freudenthal, best known for helming the similarly boy-oriented "Diary of a Wimpy Kid;" he'll pick up where "Lightning Thief" director Chris Columbus left off. (Columbus will only produce this new movie.)

As we reported in March, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the well-regarded writers of "Ed Wood" and kid hit "Agent Cody Banks," have been brought on to write a script. The idea, the source said, is to move quickly with a new film and come out as early as 2012.

The first "Percy Jackson" film introduced the world to an ordinary boy who discovers that he is the son of the Greek god Poseidon. Riordan's second book, subtitled "The Sea of Monsters," follows Percy and his group of friends as they head to the titular sea to find the mythical Golden Fleece, as well as to free a friend who has been captured there. It's expected, though, that the sequel will draw from other Percy Jackson titles as well as "Sea of Monsters."

It's easy to understand a studio's interest in the Percy Jackson property: In addition to the five books Riordan wrote in the series, he's penned numerous spinoffs, including the popular "The Demigod Files."

Any new Percy Jackson movie would need to contend with the age question: Lerman is already 19 in real life (the first film aged the character up from 12 to 17) while the property's core fan base can see their tastes change pretty quickly.

Then again, there is this tantalizing fact: After this summer there will presumably still be audiences hungering for movies about boys on fantastical adventures, but no "Harry Potter" to sate them.

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Logan Lerman in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief." Credit: Fox 2000


Fox will make a 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' sequel

April 2, 2010 |  8:54 am

EXCLUSIVE: Last week, we told you that the elements were coming together for a "Diary of a Wimpy Kid' sequel. Now we can report that Fox 2000 has greenlighted a sequel to its pre-teen hit, based on the second book in author Jeff Kinney's bestselling prose/comic series.

Diar The production will work from a new script from Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, who wrote the shooting script of the first movie, and will take a fair amount of input from Kinney himself. Star Zachary Gordon will come back too, in a plot that will closely follow "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules," the book that findss Greg and both his friends and antagonists back for a second year in middle school. Producer Nina Jacobson is also returning.


The box office for the film's second weekend of release showed a not insignificant drop of 55%, but given that a movie budgeted at $15 million has now earned $40 million in a little more than two weeks of release, the property is a windfall for the studio. And with a third and fourth book published and a fifth on the way later this year, "Wimpy" could turn into a nice little franchise for the studio.

Fox will probably need to hire a new director for the next film, though; it's unlikely Thor Freudenthal would come back behind the camera. There's also no start date as yet, although given the propitiousness of the March release date this year, don't be surprised if the film pops up again next year at this time.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Follow me on Twitter.

Photo: Book jacket for 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. Credit: Amulet Books

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Unlocking another 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid'

March 26, 2010 |  6:43 pm

With "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" one of the year's first sleeper hits, plans are under way to develop a follow-up film based on the second book in the popular series.

Wim "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" is expected to follow its corresponding novel closely -- it will track the adventures of Greg and other preteens awkward, clever and occasionally confident in a new year of middle school, with a school talent show a linchpin of the narrative.

Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, who wrote the shooting script on the first picture, have been hired to write the second movie, and author Jeff Kinney will again be heavily involved in development, a factor that observers say made the first movie both a creative and commercial success. Producer Nina Jacobson is once more producing through her Color Force production banner.

The X-factor is director Thor Freudenthal, who according to sources has not ruled out but is nonetheless unlikely to return for the second film (he's meeting on the teen supernatural movie "Agnes Quill" at Paramount, to which he's been attached for some time, as well as other projects).

Sources say that Fox 2000, which financed and distributed "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," has not yet committed to making the second movie, but there is a sort of development urgency to it; both preteen audiences and preteen stars have a tendency to age very quickly in franchises of this kind, suddenly making a movie feel very different. No one likes deep voices where they didn't hear them before.

Fortunately for the studio, most of the legal issues are locked up. Zachary Gordon and other cast are signed, and Fox has an option all five books in the series, which ends when Greg finishes middle school (the last book is set to be released this year). The studio will likely make a final decision after seeing both a script and more box office results.

Made for $15 million by the studio's Fox 2000 label, "Wimpy Kid" proved almost an instant success, earning $21.8 million in its first weekend.

Parents like the film because, well, their kids like the books and because the movie is a slightly more elevated, edifying form of the preteen genre. "Wimpy Kids" is also the kind of property that Hollywood executives like these days -- there's built-in brand awareness, the ability to franchise numerous films and, maybe most important, a manageable price tag.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Follow us on Twitter.

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'Wimpy Kids' continues roll for brands over stars


'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' could augur a post-Harry Potter boom

March 22, 2010 |  1:37 pm

Wimp
The surprise success of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" at the box office this weekend -- it earned nearly $22 million, beating out the blazing originality of "The Bounty Hunter" and "Repo Men" -- shows much about the state of contemporary box office (and not just that a well-made movie can actually come out this time of year).

For one thing, it demonstrates that audiences may finally be getting tired of Jennifer Aniston (we've heard that before, so fingers crossed). For another, it shows that a well-known title or brand -- the movie is based on Jeff Kinney's wildly bestselling children's graphic-novel series -- is these days increasingly likely to trump a well-known actor, as several pundits have noted.

But maybe most strikingly, it proves that books aimed at pre-adolescents can be turned into successful movies.

We've heard that one before too. Observers have spent the better part of this past decade of "Harry Potter" touting a post-Potter boom at the movies. But children's books -- especially those aimed at the pre-teen set -- generally haven't caught on at the multiplex. "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," based on the literary mega-phenomenon, flopped.  "The Golden Compass" helped sink New Line as a studio. And just last month, "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," based on Rick Riordan's bestselling fantasy series, generated more rain than thunder (though it fared far better overseas).

With "Diary" (and, in a somewhat different sense, with "Alice in Wonderland"), there are signs that the post-Potter boom is finally here. "Diary" producers pulled off a well-regarded pre-teen film despite a smaller budget than many of their more action-oriented counterparts. And they did so by showcasing a central character who's roughly the same age as much of the film's target audience. (The conventional wisdom among producers of youth-skewing movies is that most kids in elementary school and junior high want to see older characters, a la "Twilight" and "Pirates of the Caribbean").

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