True to its name, L.A.-based property incubator The Hatchery has been laying a lot of eggs since its inception late last year. Cashing in on the combined experience of partners Margaret Loesch (ex-founding president of Fox Kids Networks) and Bruce Stein (formerly worldwide president and COO of Mattel and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment), the company develops properties across all mediums. And its coop is really crowded right now with the first batch of projects that’s ready to come to fruition.
One of the studio’s primary focuses is low-budget, literary-based family films. By honing in on well-known book properties, Loesch says The Hatchery can raise enough capital from small investors to retain a larger share of the profits and have more control over the end product. ‘It’s a great niche that is underdeveloped in many ways,’ she says. ‘A movie that’s budgeted between US$5 million and US$8 million has not traditionally been on the radar screen for the major studios, but the public is starting to look for more family fare.’
First up on this front is Benji: Off the Leash!, a live-action feature from franchise creator Joe Camp’s Biloxi, Mississippi-based Mulberry Square Productions. The film will be independently released in U.S. theaters this August, and The Hatchery will be handling consumer products for both the movie and the franchise. The Hatchery has also acquired the rights to John Fitzgerald’s ’70s book series The Great Brain and will produce a flick based on these tales of overcoming kid crises in the Mid-West with Twentieth Century Fox.
In TV news, The Hatchery is producing Scrooge, a three-hour musical that will air on CBS in December, as well as a package of six book-based TV movies for ABC Family. On the series slate is Balderdash, a family game show based on the board game being produced with Mattel Entertainment. PAX TV has picked up 26 weeks of the strip series, which will debut this summer.
As far as future endeavors go, Loesch says she is looking to partner on projects that pose interesting consumer products opportunities, and she’s particularly interested in developing kid-targeted video games.