Short Takes

“The KTLA Morning News” is ready for primetime. The top-rated morning program will celebrate its 30-month birthday at 8 p.m. today with the “2 1/2-Year Anniversary Special.” The two-hour program, which will feature clips from the offbeat newscast and celebrity guests, was taped Friday evening at the Aquarius Theater in Hollywood.

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Production on director John Singleton’s “Higher Learning” for Columbia Pictures is set to start today in L.A. Full cast of the ensemble piece is Jennifer Connelly, Ice Cube, Omar Epps, Laurence Fishburne, Regina King, Michael Rappaport, Kristy Swanson, Tyra Banks and Jason Wiles. Pic is described as a contemporary drama that charts a semester in the lives of a handful of students as they confront identity, diversity, sexism and escalating racial tensions on a college campus.

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Atlantis Films’ “Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad” will be simulcast by basic cable networks Black Entertainment TV and the Family Channel on Saturday to mark Black History Month. The project was produced by Atlantis in association with United Image Entertainment, a partnership of actor Tim Reid (who appears in the movie) and BET.

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Tom Langan has signed a new three-year deal, effective in April, to continue as co-exec producer of the NBC daytime drama “Days of Our Lives.” Ken Corday is exec producer of the show, which is produced in association with Columbia Pictures TV.

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New Line Cinema is going techno with its latest buy, the worldwide film rights to first-time novelist Pierre Ouellette’s thriller “The Deus Machine.” The indie paid a reportedly “low figure” for the futuristic saga about technology run rampant. The pic will be produced by Michael Harpster and co-produced by Jonathan Cohen. Brad Luff initiated the acquisition. Michael De Luca, New Line production prexy, said, “It’s the kind of a book that deserves top-flight talent across the board in terms of director, writer and even cast.”

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