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U.K.’s Granada TV back in pic biz with ‘Sarah’

Granada TV, producer of the Oscar-winning “My Left Foot,” is back in the film business.

After a three-year hiatus, the ITV company has returned to feature production with “Jack and Sarah,” a$ 4 million romantic comedy backed by British Screen, Polygram and France’s Mainstream, which started shooting in January.

This is Granada’s first feature film since Jim Sheridan’s “The Field” in 1991 . At that time, the company had ambitions to become a major European film producer pumping out half a dozen titles a year. Those plans were thrown off course by the upheavals of the 1991 ITV license auction.

Now, the second time around, the Granada Film division has more modest and perhaps more achievable goals. According to film chief Pippa Cross, the company expects to produce “three or four films in the next couple of years.

“The feature business is a genuine extension to our core TV business,” she argues. “A lot of really good talent comes through TV, and it’s daft not to use that talent to make films.”

Tim Sullivan, writer/director of “Jack and Sarah,” is a case in point; his credits include docu-drama “Thatcher: The Final Days” and telepic “The Last Vampyre.”

But for all this logic, Granada is the only ITV company that still sees film production as a worthwhile investment, albeit within what Cross calls “cautious business parameters.” Other ITV stations such as LWT and Central have flirted with features in the past, but the harsh realities of the new ITV system have forced them to focus solely on TV production.

Granada’s upcoming films will likely include the long-awaited U.S. movie version of the hit Granada miniseries “Prime Suspect,” to be co-produced with Universal Pictures. The script, written by Tom Topor (“The Accused”), is ready and the search is on for a director.

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