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Beeb bullish on pic biz; Plans to finance 5 theatricals per year for 3 years

The BBC has squashed speculation that it might withdraw from producing theatrical films by declaring it will finance, in full or in part, five pictures annually for three years.

This represents a step up from the two to three BBC films currently earmarked for cinema release yearly.

Opportunity knocks

Affirming the heightened commitment to theatrical pix, BBC head of films Mark Shivas said Monday, “This represents a terrific opportunity for me to accelerate the reputation we’ve built up across the world with films like ‘Truly Madly Deeply,’ ‘Enchanted April’ and ‘Antonia & Jane.’ ”

The announcement represents a renewed vote of confidence in Shivas from the man who recently replaced him as the BBC’s head of drama, Charles Denton.

Denton himself was an enthusiastic supporter of the British film industry in his previous role as chief exec of indie producer Zenith. Before the shakeup in the drama department, which followed a string of low-rated series and serials, the BBC’s commitment to making films aimed at theatrical release was questioned.

“With this new positive commitment,” Denton said, “the BBC intends to reemphasize its support for the considerable talents of the British film industry, and looks forward (after cinema and video release) to transmitting the fruits of this substantial investment.”

‘Snapper’ on tap

Among recent BBC films guaranteed U.K. theatrical exposure are Stephen Frears’ “The Snapper” (which bows Friday but has already aired on TV), the Helen Mirren-starrer “The Hawk,” and Leslie Megahey’s “The Hour of the Pig.”

Beeban Kidron’s “Great Moments in Aviation” and Stephen Poliakoff’s “Century” await a theatrical distributor.

Shivas also said he will be able to acquire U.K. TV rights for up to five independently made features per year.

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