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Movies carry TV schedules, packages and other goodies.

Just as all the world loves a lover, so international television programmers love Hollywood's theatrical pictures provided they have star quality and big budgets, and can afford them.

When stations abroad can't get the "biggies," (which also run into big money and, aren't so plentiful any more) they are more receptive to buying the B and B+ product. This with the proviso that cast and story measure up to expectations and are likely to pull in the ratings.

Next in line are the telemovies which, as Larry Friedricks, president of Kushner-Locke International puts it, "in recent years, for what they cost, have delivered the most bounce for the ounce."

Conversely, according to film executive Bill Shields, "international broadcasters often prefer 'B' pictures to telemovies, partly because they seem to draw more viewers, and partly because they have greater re-run potential. People are comfortable with 'B' level of movie stars on TV. They enjoy the pictures. They know what they are going to get."

The A-picture market is well dominated by the majors who, as one executive admitted, frequently "package" these sales with series and other material. "They're not handicapped by anti-trust laws abroad," he noted. "They can do whatever they want, and those big movies also get big prices."

In some cases, those tags run a million dollars or more. The broadcaster also gets re-run rights-usually two or three runs over a three-to-five year period. This is one item in the negotiations that is usually flexible, and justifies the high price.

While the majors are certainly the key suppliers of A movies, they don't necessarily live off them. "We achieved record sales in 1991, and only 40 per cent of them accrued to theatrical films," reported Bill Saunders, former president of Twentieth TV International. "The rest came from series and other types of programming. Of course, big movies are a big attraction on television abroad, particularly if they have been heavily promoted for their theatrical run. That's what makes them so valuable. But how many of them are there?"

"Of course, the international market prefers the theatrical films, particularly the big ones," said Robert Meyers, now president of Orion Television International. "They have the look that lights up the sky. In a package, the big, important ones which have had box office success, are the locomotives' that sell the rest. They make the package exciting."

Like others, Meyers noted that the demands of the expanding market abroad are such that the supply of meaningful pictures isn't big enough. This gives the B-product a better chance.

"There are a few really great features, and even they are getting less and less exposure because there is too much out there. In any case, the majors have eaten it all up," said Ray Donahue, international sales vp for New World. His company doesn't have theatrical product, having sold its library to Trans Atlantic some time ago. "I don't really see any recent significant change," commented Donahue. "There aren't many good libraries left, so they go for TV movies and series. It's quite natural, and it places a greater emphasis on made-for-TV films, which are popular all over."

"Theatrical movies aren't so important for our schedule," said the buyer for one of the key Dutch networks. "Our public isn't all that sophisticated. They actually prefer series, both home-grown ones and American. What's more, when we do want Hollywood theatrical films, the time gap often keeps us from doing it. The delay - after the theatrical run and the home video window - is just too much for us, and the promotional advantage of having a theatrical film evaporates."

A similar note was struck by Pierre Grimblat, the president of France's Hamster Productions. "Our networks find it dangerous to schedule a theatrical movie in prime time, unless it's a Dances With Wolves," he said, "and that type of picture doesn't come along very often. We find that a series, or even a telemovie with an interesting story, acted by medium-class actors, draw better than a theatrical release. Theatrical movies on TV don't enjoy that prestige any more."

So on one hand, we have film sellers who refuse to be put on the defensive by MOW's producers. On the other hand, "A" picture TV distributors don't need to bump up their features, with the risk of devaluating their inevitable run-of-the-mill series. A third group, the buyers, tend not to emphasize publicly the importance of theatricals in their TV schedules for fear of raising costs.
COPYRIGHT 1992 TV Trade Media, Inc.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Video Age International
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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