New prez Picker leads Hallmark’s pix push

NEW YORK — Veteran producer David Picker has been named president of Hallmark Entertainment Prods. Worldwide, in what sources see as a major expansion of the Hallmark brand into theatrical motion pictures.

It is understood that Picker, together with Hallmark Entertainment chairman Robert Halmi Sr. and president and CEO Robert Halmi Jr., are actively exploring a program of movies that they would produce and co-finance. Picker has been a production chief at United Artists, Paramount and Columbia, as well as a successful producer. Most recently, he produced “The Crucible” at 20th Century Fox.

In addition to his feature work, Picker has spearheaded the “Millennium” project Hallmark is preparing at ABC. Among the top writers working on original screenplays to be broadcast in November 1999 are Arthur Miller, Elaine May, John Guare, Terrence McNally and Larry Gelbart.

In his new post, Picker will oversee the development and production of the company’s big event miniseries, two-hour movies, Crayola Kids Adventures and animated projects.

“David Picker’s stature and range of experience place him among the leaders of the motion picture industry,” Halmi Sr. said in a statement. “Bringing David into the Hallmark family will help take Hallmark Entertainment to a new level of growth, while maintaining our reputation for the highest quality family entertainment. We are excited to have David join Hallmark’s senior management.”

Halmi Sr. could not be reached for comment since he is on vacation in Spain.

A third-generation film exec, Picker began his career as a photography instructor at the Army Information School. The Dartmouth grad joined UA in 1956, climbing through the ranks to become CEO in 1970. As UA’s head of production, Picker brought in such films as “Tom Jones,” the James Bond series, Woody Allen’s films, “Midnight Cowboy” and the Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night” and “Help.”

Among the many European directors that Picker introduced to UA were Frederico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Francois Truffaut and Bernardo Bertolucci. He also founded UA’s music publishing activities and served as president of UA Records.

After becoming an exclusive independent producer for UA in 1972, Picker delivered three films — “Lenny,” “Smile” and “Juggernaut.”

Par supervisor

As prexy of Paramount’s motion picture division from 1976-78, Picker acquired or supervised the development and production of such releases as “Saturday Night Fever,” “Days of Heaven,” “Heaven Can Wait” and “Ordinary People.”

He teamed with Steve Martin and produced with Martin’s manager, Bill McEuen, “The Jerk” and “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” for Universal and “Man With Two Brains” for Warner Bros., all with Carl Reiner directing.

In 1979, Picker joined Lorimar as president of feature films and developed and supervised such films as “S.O.B.,” “Being There” and “Officer and a Gentleman” (with Paramount).

At Columbia Pictures, where he came on board in 1986 as president and CEO, Picker put into production such films as “Hope and Glory,” “School Daze,” “Punchline” and “True Believer.”

Working in the biz runs in the Picker family. David’s father, the late Eugene Picker, was with Loews Theaters for 44 years, including nine as president. His uncle, the late Arnold Picker, was a founder partner with Arthur Krim in the new UA in 1951. His daughter Caryn is currently a vice president of Miramax Films. His sister, Jean Firstenberg, is director of the American Film Institute.

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