American Playhouse, Goldwyn start indie

American Playhouse, with some financial help from Samuel Goldwyn Co., formed Playhouse Pictures Inc., an independent producer of arthouse fare with enough money to shield it from some of the financial tumult of public financing.

With $ 70 million in initial financing, the new company plans to make and market 15 films in three years.

Goldwyn, which contributed $ 30 million to the coffers, will hold worldwide distribution rights. A number of other investors also have chipped in, including the Public Broadcasting Service.

Financing for American Playhouse productions has faltered in recent years as PBS money has dwindled.

“What this will enable us to do is have a pool of funding available and allow us to move in a more timely way,” said Timothy Brennan, Playhouse’s new veepee and chief financial officer.

Two full seasons of American Playhouse programming will air in the 1995-96 season, after which all 15 Playhouse Pictures films will be made available to PBS. The new company’s president is Lindsey Law, current American Playhouse prexy.

Playhouse already has three pix lined up. The first film to roll will be “The Lady Chieftains,” a true story of a Navajo high school girls basketball team. The company is also working on “Angels & Insects,” from the A.S. Byatt novel, and “Some Mother’s Son,” a screenplay from “In the Name of the Father” scribe Terry George.

For Goldwyn, the deal boosts its releases in coming years, something for which the company has been striving. Goldwyn and American Playhouse have partnered on a number of recent releases, including “Longtime Companion, “”Straight Out of Brooklyn,””Much Ado About Nothing” and “Golden Gate.”

“This is an additional source of product for us,” said Tom Rothman, worldwide production prexy at Goldwyn.

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