Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage

EXCLUSIVE: The paint is still wet in post-production on Mariah Mundi And The Midas Box, the steam punk teen adventure adapted from Graham Taylor’s popular novels, but producers have given the greenlight to an as-yet untitled sequel. Key cast including Aneurin Barnard and Michael Sheen will return, though it’s expected a new director will take over from Jonathan Newman. “The decision to greenlight a sequel has been very much based upon how happy we are with the first movie as it comes together, and reactions from test audiences,” producer Peter Bevan tells Deadline. The ambitious independent production has already sold in territories including Germany, Latin America, Russia and China and will screen a sizzle reel at AFM on Friday. “We’ve already covered our at-risk equity investment based on early sales, so we’re ready to push ahead,” Bevan says.

Barnard plays the 17-year-old Mariah, whose world is torn apart by the disappearance of his parents and the kidnapping of his younger brother. In the first adventure, he teams up with Sheen’s Will Charity and journeys to a majestic hotel teetering on the edge of a cliff where he finds an extraordinary box that turns everyday objects into gold. The two published sequels detail further adventures at the hotel, but the filmed sequel won’t be based on either of them (Mariah Mundi And The Ghost Diamonds and Mariah Mundi And The Ship Of Fools). Rather, it will move to exotic locales in a new story scripted by Christian Taylor and based on a currently unpublished fourth book.

Produced by Entertainment Motion Pictures in association with Arcadia Motion Pictures, the hope is that given Harry Potter and Twilight will be out of the way, the market is ripe for a fresh teen adventure franchise to program against The Hunger Games. “The middle ground of budgets has disappeared,” Bevan says, “and our intention with Mariah Mundi was to make a knowingly commercial movie to fill the gap, on an independent basis.” Seeking US and UK distribution at AFM, Six Sales will screen three key sequences, with completed VFX, from the picture-locked first film which will be delivered in time for the Cannes market.