In a deal that is in the vicinity of $2 million against $5 million, Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media won the auction for the Nicholas Sparks novel Safe Haven. Temple Hill partners Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey will produce with Kavanaugh and Sparks, and Tucker Tooley exec producing. All of them teamed on the adaptation of the Sparks novel Dear John, the Relativity-financed pic that grossed $110 million worldwide with Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried starring. Sparks has become the closest thing the movie business has to a slam dunk, and that allowed UTA to make a rather sensational ask in a sluggish book-to-movie marketplace. What is most intriguing is the quick trigger on the deal, whose heft turned off some potential bidders. Buyers got a 9-month window to develop a script. If that date passes and a script isn’t ready, the rights return to Sparks and he keeps the $2 million, sources tell me. It’s unclear how close Kavanaugh came to paying that number, but I think he got close. Not a lot of Relativity’s films have been working lately, but he stepped into a hit with Dear John, a package that was fully developed at New Line by Toby Emmerich, who couldn’t get his then boss Bob Shaye to pull the trigger and instead settled for a 7.5 % of first dollar gross receipts to let it go.
The new Sparks novel follows Katie, a young North Carolina woman, determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships. As she begins to fall in love, she struggles with a dark secret that still haunt and terrifies her.
Sparks is coming off The Last Song, a novel he wrote to be a screen vehicle for Miley Cyrus. He also penned the script. This time, he’ll leave that chore to others. His novels The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe and the upcoming The Lucky One, have all been fashioned into romantic movies.
“I chalk it up to working with great people, and I’ve had more than my fair share of luck,” Sparks told me. “The only thing I ask studios is to retain the spirit of the story and characters and make the best film they possibly can. I’m an author who lives in a little town in North Carolina, and I know very little about making movies. Without going into specifics on the deal, I can honestly say I was thrilled at the unprecedented support they will give this project on all different levels.”
Relativity has just sent a release on the deal, claiming that there is a “unique collaboration” between Grand Central Publishing and Relativity Media to provide marketing and promotional support when the novel gets published in September. That will be accomplished through The Rogue Network, an online venture that claims 50 million views per month. and Tucker Tooley will be executive producer.