Fox Movietone’s British Arm Cranks Up Again

British Movietonews, one of the country’s oldest news-reel companies, is reactivating production on a modest scale after an 11-year hiatus.

Majority-owned by 20th Century Fox, the firm aims to exploit its library, which spans 50 years, by producing programs for British webs and international broadcasters.

First project planned is “Tank,” a one-hour docu on the history, development and tactics of the armored fighting vehicles, including footage from the Persian Gulf crisis.

Movietonews m.d. Barry Florin says “Tank” will roll as soon as he’s settled the funding, which he hopes will come from the BBC or ITV web and a German partner. He says several other projects are in the embryonic stage.

The company recently collaborated with Sky Television on the 52-episode series “Those Were The Days,” providing the concept and archive material. Florin says proceeds from foreign sales will be split between Sky and Movietonews. He’s angling to place the piece with PBS stations in the U.S. and with a Japanese broadcaster.

They also released 10 special-interest videos on the sell-through market via CBS/Fox in the U.K., racking up revenues of $1.25 million, and Florin hopes the distrib will issue them in other territories.

British Movietonews produced weekly newsreels from 1929 until 1979, and it has more than 7,000 miles of film in its vaults. In league with the National Film Archive, it began a program in 1989 to preserve material shot on the chemically unstable nitrate stock used until the ’50s.

The biggest customers for its vintage coverage of wars, revolutions, disasters and other major events are broadcasters, but Florin says clips frequently are used in sports and rock videos, feature films and commercials.

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