20th Century Fox has purchased the movie rights to the long-running PBS children’s TV show Sesame Street, and The Hollywood Reporter has learned that longtime series writer Joey Mazzarino has been asked to write a script. Shawn Levy, director of Night at the Museum and Real Steel will produce under his 21 Laps banner.
There should be little doubt that the recent big-screen success of the other huge Jim Henson creation — The Muppets — had a major influence on Fox’s decision to pick up the rights. The educational program featuring Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie and many more has been on the air for nearly 45 years and amassed 138 Emmys in that time. THR mentions that one in three Americans has watched Sesame Street and the program is presented in several countries all over the globe.
Despite the show’s long history, only two Sesame Street films have had theatrical releases: Follow that Bird in 1985 and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland in 1999.
The Muppets made $158.4 million globally, which isn’t a ton, but the budget was $45 million, which is significantly cheaper than most of today’s family-targeted efforts of the CG variety. A ton of the positive buzz for the film, however, came from successfully marketing the film toward adults as well as kids. There’s no word on whether Fox plans to use a similar model for Sesame Street but as always, we’ll keep you posted.