Tuesday, Variety broke the news Walden Media will be liquidating its film library, including its share of the “Chronicles of Narnia” movies. The sale will not include the rights to projects not yet released, but will consist of some forty-six movies. No deal had yet been finalized, but there are reportedly interested potential buyers, and Deloitte is handling the acquisitions. The news was quickly picked up by IMDb and NarniaFans.com.
Walden Media plans to use the proceeds to revitalize its interest in creating films which are still family-friendly, yet should appeal to a wider audience. Walden is currently involved with Universal Pictures in the recently-released “Everest,” and is working with DreamWorks and Disney on “BFG” (Big Friendly Giant), which is slated for release next summer. These films are a change in tactic of Walden, which had stopped creating its own films in 2013, laying off several employees. They had been only co-funding projects proposed by third parties, but hope to create about four films a year starting in 2016.
Walden’s involvement with “The Chronicles of Narnia” began in 2001 when it approached the C. S. Lewis Company about obtaining the rights to adapt films based on the books. In 1993, the rights for the movies had been granted to Paramount Studios. Despite efforts which included an Americanized version, and some pre-production design by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, the cost of the venture caused Parmount (as well as Disney and Universal) to balk. So the option to make the films expired, allowing Walden to step in as conditions were changing due to the success of the “Lord of the Rings” movies. (See the 2005 New York Times article “The Stepson, the Billionaire and the Walt Disney Co.”)
While Walden’s three Narnia films were box office block busters by normal standards, “Prince Caspian” and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” did not meet expectations set by the huge success of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Walden decided not to use its option to make more films. In 2013, the C. S. Lewis Company made an agreement with the Mark Gordon Company to develop a screenplay for “The Silver Chair,” which is still in the works.
Walden Media has moved on. It remains to be seen if their decision to leave Narnia behind will be regrettable, and how well “The Silver Chair” will do under a new studio. Walden’s “Everest” has struggled at the box office. Time will tell if a Mark Gordon “Silver Chair” will put some life back into the Narnia movies.