According to The LA TImes, New Line Cinema is ready to roll the dice on another trilogy, the far less well-known "His Dark Materials," by British author Philip Pullman.

New Line, which was behind such diverse offerings as the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and last year's Vera Drake, has committed to producing only the first of Pullman's bestselling novels. "The Golden Compass", a special-effects-driven fantasy, could cost more than $150 million to bring to the screen.

If it strikes a chord with moviegoers, the studio will consider making the next two in the series simultaneously, as it did with the Lord of the Rings films, which director Peter Jackson shot in New Zealand. New Line executives confirmed that the price tag for the trilogy would soar far beyond the $350 million spent on the Lord of the Rings films.

The project has been on the drawing board for years. In 2002, New Line executives talked about wanting to complete The Golden Compass in time to have it in theaters last month. Now it looks like the release date will be Christmas 2006 at the earliest.

In fact, New Line is still on the hunt for a director. Chris Weitz, who with his brother Paul directed American Pie and About a Boy, recently dropped out of The Golden Compass. After spending six months researching the script — he rewrote Tom Stoppard's original adaptation of the novel — and meeting with design consultants and special-effects houses, Chris Weitz concluded that he didn't have the expertise to tackle such a technologically difficult movie.