Netflix is taking a big leap into the fantasy realm. Wednesday, the streaming giant announced a multi-year deal with The C.S. Lewis Company to develop new series and films based on Lewis’ beloved The Chronicles of Narnia book series.
Netflix here follows the lead of Amazon, which made its own Game of Thrones—inspired, billion-dollar gamble on a streaming Lord of the Rings series last year.
The new deal gives Netflix rights to the entire Chronicles of Narnia universe, marking the first time that a single company has owned the rights to the full seven-part series, which Paste named one of the best fantasy book series of all time in 2016.
Walden Media produced film adaptations of the first three Chronicles of Narnia installments—The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader—but to diminishing box-office returns, and the prospects of a fourth were up in the air after its contract with the Lewis estate expired in 2011. Now, the full series will be coming to subscribers worldwide through Netflix, and it looks like the company is planning to build a universe around its new major property.
“C.S. Lewis’ beloved Chronicles of Narnia stories have resonated with generations of readers around the world,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix, in a statement. “Families have fallen in love with characters like Aslan and the entire world of Narnia, and we’re thrilled to be their home for years to come.”
Douglas Gresham, Lewis’ stepson, will executive produce any new series and produce new features that come out of this deal, alongside Mark Gordon of Entertainment One and Vincent Sieber.
“It is wonderful to know that folks from all over are looking forward to seeing more of Narnia, and that the advances in production and distribution technology have made it possible for us to make Narnian adventures come to life all over the world,” said Gresham. “Netflix seems to be the very best medium with which to achieve this aim, and I am looking forward to working with them towards this goal.”
As with rival Amazon, the new deal finds Netflix making an expensive push into a familiar fantasy universe, albeit one without all the baggage of Amazon’s forthcoming Lord of the Rings series. The Amazon series comes after an acclaimed, wildly successful Peter Jackson film trilogy, followed up by another three more films in the same universe with The Hobbit series, which was lucrative but exhausted fans who didn’t want to see Jackson draw a trilogy out of a single novel. Narnia, for better or worse, doesn’t have quite the same track record with its film adaptations.
With this Narnia deal, Netflix may also be making a play for Christian audiences, which haven’t been a major market in the streaming landscape so far. Lewis is one of the most influential figures in Christian theology in addition to his fiction work, and despite the diminishing returns on the Chronicles of Narnia films, they all rank behind only The Passion of the Christ as the highest-grossing Christian films of all time.
No details yet on when to expect the start of production on any of the multiple projects coming from this deal.