Nat Abraham, partner and president of distribution at Breakthrough Entertainment, discusses the film revival of Anne of Green Gables and why the trilogy has appealed to international partners.
Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic story of a red-headed orphan who finds a home with siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert is recognized not only in Canada, where it originated as a book series, but the world over. The beloved tale of Anne Shirley was revived by Breakthrough Entertainment as L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, which has been scooped up across the globe, with the latest deal coming from HBO Europe. “The initial trigger for this project was from the estate of L.M. Montgomery, which reached out to Breakthrough Entertainment to open discussions on reviving the literary work into a brand-new film installment,” Nat Abraham, partner and president of distribution at Breakthrough Entertainment, tells TV Kids of the genesis of the production.
“Given the success that this series of books has enjoyed worldwide for decades, we were thrilled and flattered at the opportunity to work with the estate to make these films a reality,” Abraham continues.
The first movie in the trilogy, which was produced by Breakthrough Entertainment in association with Corus Entertainment’s YTV and the author’s granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, launched on YTV in Canada at the beginning of last year. The adaptation was filmed in Canada and is based on Montgomery’s book, Anne of Green Gables, which was first published in 1908 and has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. It stars newcomer Ella Ballentine as Anne, Martin Sheen as Matthew and Sara Botsford as Marilla.
Since its launch on YTV in 2016, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables has been picked up around the world, including by PBS in the U.S., which also secured the second and third installments of the trilogy, The Good Stars and Fire & Dew, respectively. Abraham notes that the initial success for the first film with top broadcasters globally was “a determining factor in moving forward with two more installments.” He adds, “PBS is the go-to gold standard for quality in programming. We are proud of their commitment to all three of the Anne films and feel confident that these films serve their audience perfectly. The timeless nature of the stories and their setting is sure to entertain PBS’s viewers and their families for many years to come.”
Heading into NATPE Budapest, Breakthrough inked a pay-TV deal for the first installment with HBO Europe. Through the partnership, the film will be available in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Working with a partner like HBO gets this film maximum exposure to their widest possible audience,” Abraham says.
Additional broadcast partners are ITV in the U.K. and ARD in Germany. In Japan, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables had a theatrical release in May prior to becoming available via DVD and VOD in the country, thanks to a deal Breakthrough secured with Happinet Corporation and Synergy Entertainment. The film has also seen a theatrical release in Australia and New Zealand.
Abraham credits the enduring nature of the Anne of Green Gables brand and the universal need for family programming with the ability of this revival to travel so widely. “I’m certain that most of us have films or stories we were exposed to as children that we still retain the fondest memories of,” he says. “In today’s entertainment environment, it’s rare to find the kind of entertainment that the entire family can enjoy together. There are many other classic works like this that fans of this genre would gladly welcome again. Anne has certainly proven to be timeless.”
“These are not just classic stories but more importantly, they are generational stories that never seem to tire as those who grew up enjoying Anne of Green Gables gladly welcomed seeing more and also wanted their children to be exposed to this iconic character,” Abraham adds.
Breakthrough was careful to remain faithful to the literary classic in making the trilogy. “When you are working with stories you love, the only challenge is to be as true as possible to the author’s intentions with great screenwriters, a great director and, of course, a great cast,” Abraham explains. “We have truly found a gem in Ella Ballentine as Anne as well as Martin Sheen and Sara Botsford rounding out the main characters.”