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Fox Picks Narnia Up From Where Disney Left Off

Twentieth Century Fox has picked up THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER after Disney decided a month ago to pass on the franchise, according to VARIETY.

Fox had first dibs on the project as it has a shared Fox Walden marketing and distribution label with Narnia's owner, Walden Media. Budget and script details are being worked out, but Fox is currently developing the film and is hoping to start shooting at the end of summer. A holiday 2010 release is being eyed through the Fox Walden label. Director will be Michael Apted.

Development and production will be led by Fox 2000, whose head, Elizabeth Gabler, had previously pursued the Narnia franchise before Walden got it. The studio has been looking for a family-friendly franchise; their ERAGON franchise flopped at the box office and was pulled after only one film.

Fox and Walden will split production, promotion and advertising costs for DAWN TREADER, which is budgeted at $140 million, far less than the $215 million Disney spent on PRINCE CASPIAN last year. It made $419 million at the worldwide box office, but was a far cry from the first film's gross of $745 million worldwide.

CASPIAN is considered the least commercially appealing of C.S. Lewis' seven novels, yet still ranked No. 10 in the global box office. DAWN TREADER is seen as the most family-friendly and will go back to the magical aspects absent from PRINCE CASPIAN.

The start date is mostly contingent upon Walden choosing a writer. Fox and Walden were both satisfied with the latest draft penned by Richard LaGravanese, but he might be unavailable due to work on an adaptation of Sara Gruen's novel WATER FOR ELEPHANTS at Fox 2000.

Once production is greenlit, it's expected to be shot in Australia. The original plan was to shoot in Fox's Baja facility where TITANIC and MASTER AND COMMANDER were filmed, but concerns over the drug violence and kidnappings in the area have called for a move Down Under.

Caspian, Edmund and Lucy will again be played by Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley, with new character Eustace Clarence Scrubb to be played by SON OF RAMBOW's Will Poulter. Producers include Mark Johnson and Andrew Adamson.