Spellbound
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1 item from 2008


Cable nets expand into theatrical

6 February 2008 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

When acquisitions execs haggled over some of the more sought-after movies at the Sundance Film Festival last month, they often found themselves negotiating not with indie producers but with an unlikely partner: cable networks.

The increased interest in these networks' efforts shows how savvy cable has been with the unusual brand extension of theatrical movies. Sundance titles including Nanette Burstein's American Teen (A&E Indie Films), multiple award winner Man on Wire (Discovery Films) and the immigrant drama Sugar (HBO Films) all originated in the film units of television nets.

But if cable has been effective in larger arenas, its involvement also has led to complicated and sometimes protracted negotiations, and they provide an illustration of the potential entanglements when a company expands its role.

Take A&E. Emboldened by the growing commercial potential of such docus as Capturing the Friedmans and Spellbound a few years ago, the network of Dog the Bounty Hunter decided to jump in the theatrical game, appointing Molly Thompson to run the division under nonfiction programming chief Rob Sharenow. The unit has since backed a number of acclaimed docus, including the religious investigation Jesus Camp, the art-world inquiry My Kid Could Paint That and Burstein's Teen.

Sources also say it has commissioned a docu about Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who joined the Army and was killed in Afghanistan under hazy circumstances, to be directed by "Kid" director Amir Bar-Lev. After first saying Tillman was killed in combat, the military has since acknowledged that his death was the result of friendly fire. Bar-Lev will look at the life and odyssey of Marie Tillman, Pat's widow, to uncover the truth about her husband's death. It's also possible that he'll investigate the killing itself. »

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