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Saban enters race for Menendez vidpic

Saban Entertainment will make a two-hour movie, “Honor Thy Father and Mother — The True Story of the Menendez Family,” with plans to begin production and decide later where to sell the telefilm domestically.

Saban’s project is based on an upcoming book by Ron Soble and John Johnson, two reporters who have covered the Beverly Hills patricide case for the Los Angeles Times. The project is one of several Menendez movies said to be in the works, including a long-in-development CBS miniseries from producer Zev Braun and possible ABC and NBC versions. In other words, move over, Amy Fisher.

Citing international interest in the widely publicized court case, Saban senior VP of movies & TV Lance Robbins said he was comfortable going forward with production without a set network deal. “We wanted to control the project from start to finish,” he said.

If ABC or NBC doesn’t bite, the production will go to a cable network or Saban will distribute it in syndication, the company said. The project is still being cast, with a script being written by Michael Murray (“Love Kills”).

Saban is targeting a February airdate, anticipating that such a timeframe will give the company a jump on possible competitors. “We think we can beat CBS to the punch, and we’re sure we can beat everyone else,” Robbins said.

The company pursued a similar approach with “Under Investigation,” a movie starring Harry Hamlin that Saban financed and produced before inking a homevideo deal with New Line, to be followed by its broadcast premiere on NBC.

Though the Big Three networks faced ridicule from critics because of their “get there first” Amy Fisher race, all three projects scored high ratings. Saban believes the Menendez story is even more widely known, particularly abroad.

Lyle and Erik Menendez are on trial for the shotgun slayings of their parents , former Live Entertainment exec Jose Menendez and his wife Kitty. The defense has argued that the brothers killed their parents after years of physical and mental abuse.

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