It’s hard not to root for a Depression era kiddie movie that costs under $9 million, showcases good clean fun for little girls, and stars Abigail Breslin, the Hayley Mills of her generation, as well as a great supporting cast of very funny adults like Wally Shawn, Jane Krakowski, Joan Cusak and Stanley Tucci. So it sucks that the studio for Kit Kittredge: An American Girl opening July 2 has now been killed off. Can Picturehouse successfully release a film when it’s shutting down? In this case, apparently yes thanks to Hollywood greed. Orphaned Kit Kittredge has been adopted by Warner Bros and supervised by New Line and groomed by HBO. But it’s Warner Bros who now controls the American Girl franchise and is already developing the next one (as a musical set in the 1970s). So let’s look back at all the people who have fought to parent this little pic.
Yes, it was initially set up at Walden Media, which is when Anne Peacock (Narnia) was hired. But then Walden reneged on the initial P&A commitment, so a furious Mattell pulled American Girl and placed it with HBO Films/Picturehouse. Picturehouse, of course, was set up by New Line and HBO. Then, last November, Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne saw an early cut and had a secret meeting with Bill Nelson to essentially buy HBO out of the American Girl biz. HBO at the time was considering shutting down its film department so Nelson took the offer seriously. But Colin Calender became enraged and said absolutely no to any idea of a sale. It took all of one night for Nelson to overrule Calender. Oops — suddenly, Colin went from losing one pic to losing the entire pic department. But Kit Kittredge contractually still had to be finished by HBO films. So, Calender had to complete a pic he no longer controlled. You can imagine the fun in post with that dickwad!
A few months later Warner Bros was reviewing all the New Line properties it was about to take over when execs screened an unmixed print of Kit Kittredge and loved it. Which is not a surprise, given the massive DVD sales of the three prior American Girl made-for-TV movies (also done for Warners) and the fact that the franchise’s new feature film will be in profit at just $27 million including P&A. So, given the DVD projections, this could be a cash cow. Meanwhile, Bob Berney is courting Mattel to keep himself involved in future American Girl movies once he sets up his new company. But he really should be romancing Jeff Robinov, who I hear is unhappy with Berney over some Polly Cohen brouhaha.