With Sheriff Rick Grimes, the central figure in its hit show The Walking Dead, leaving the series, AMC Networks announced that it plans a series of movies based on the character.
The AMC Studios Original Films will be written by Scott Gimple, the chief content officer for what will become The Walking Dead Universe.
Andrew Lincoln will continue to play Grimes in the movies, which will appear on AMC.
Production of the first movie is expected to begin production as early as 2019.
The success of The Walking Dead has underpinned the financial success of AMC Networks. As its ratings have declined, there have been questions about how that will affect revenues for the company.
AMC executives have maintained that while the show might decline, the company was looking at The Walking Dead as a franchise that would continue for years. One spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, has been a success but has also seen its ratings decline in recent seasons.
Now with the films, AMC is showing a new part of its plan for keeping the zombie business lucrative.
“We believe this is a world and narrative with many possibilities and opportunities for character development and we’re excited to expand the series into a franchise that can live across multiple formats,” said David Madden, president of original programming for AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios. “For many years, fans have talked about things in the apocalypse they want to see and now we have an opportunity to explore those stories, beginning with the character who started it all, Rick Grimes.”
Lincoln made his final appearance in the series Sunday night . Grimes was mortally wounded and last seen being flown away by helicopter to an unknown destination.
AMC said the first film will show where Rick has been taken and what he faces in different part of a world dealing with a zombie apocalypse.
“We have a lot on the horizon – starting with a new epic featuring one of the greatest leading actors in television history and one of the best people I’ve ever met,” said Gimple. “These films are going to be big evolutions of what we’ve been doing on the show, with the scope and scale of features. We’re starting with the first part of the continuing story of Rick Grimes, and there is much more on the way, featuring yet-unseen worlds of The Walking Dead and faces from the show’s past, as well as new characters we hope to become favorites, told by TWD veterans and emerging voices. We want to break new ground with different, distinct stories, all part of the same world that’s captured our imagination for nearly a decade of the Dead.”