28 October 2008 4:00 PM, PDT | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Features from Natalie Portman, Barry Sonnenfeld and Randall Wallace highlight the seven-film debut slate from Essential Pictures.

The new production outfit is a sister to sales/financing company Essential Entertainment. Although funded by separate pools of equity, the two share mutual investors and employees: Ee co-founder Jim Kohlberg is Ep's chairman/CEO, and exec Neil Kaplan is president/COO.

Ep is aiming to develop, package, finance and produce two to three films a year in the $10 million-$40 million range, then sell them via Ee, which Kohlberg continues to run with co-founder Jere Haufstater. The slate includes:

-- The Natalie Portman starrer "Isabella V," an adaptation of John Richardson's 2003 blog-formatted Esquire article about an heiress on the run from her family. Dan Gordon ("The Hurricane") wrote the thriller script, to be produced in conjunction with Brightlight Pictures and Handsome Charlie Films.

-- "Outlander," based on Diana Gabaldon's 1992 best-seller about a »

- By Gregg Goldstein

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