Turner confirms yen for pic biz

Whether reported acquisition talks with Castle Rock Entertainment are successful or not, Turner Entertainment Group wants to increase its presence in the motion picture business.

TEG president Scott Sassa declined to discuss the reported $ 200 million offer for Castle Rock (Daily Variety, July 13), but, speaking at the TV critics tour Thursday, he said the company’s goal is “to become a major producer and distributor of theatrical films.”

Asked how many movies a year Turner might want to release, Sassa alluded to the output levels of any one of the major studios. Turner has already announced plans to release one conceived-for-TV project, “Gettysburg,” in theaters, and has another pic in the works, “The Pagemaster,” a fantasy starring Macaulay Culkin.

Sassa added that Turner is well-positioned for the advent of a 500-channel universe with its existing cable webs, noting that the Cartoon Network was introduced with less than 30 incremental employees, capitalizing on the resources of its existing services. That formula can be used as the market expands.

The company intends to launch one of its new cable services, Turner Classic Movies, early next year in connection with the 100th anniversary of movies. Turner said it will present more than 400 movies a month, with less than a 15% repeat rate in any given month — a testimonial to the depth of the Turner vaults, which include more than 4,000 titles.

In other areas, TBS highlighted a longform slate that includes 11 projects and over 50 hours of new programming for the coming year, and CNN announced the return of correspondent Peter Arnett — one of the rising stars created by the Gulf War — after a two-year leave of absence to write a book about his experiences.

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