A&E skeds Hallmark’s ‘Morgue,’ Barnum bio

Cablers lining up to ink with entertainment company

NEW YORK — Hallmark Entertainment has signed its first deal with A&E to produce a four-hour biographical miniseries on the life of P.T. Barnum and a two-hour adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

That’s the word from Robert Halmi Sr., chairman of Hallmark Entertainment, the most prolific producer of miniseries and TV movies in the business. Among Hallmark’s recent four-hour movies are “The Odyssey,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” “In Cold Blood” and “Peter Benchley’s Creature.”

Those four were commissioned by the broadcast networks, but Halmi said that in addition to A&E, cable networks HBO, USA and Showtime have begun negotiating with Hallmark for original movies and miniseries. Hallmark produced the four-hour, $20 million adaptation of “Moby Dick” with Patrick Stewart for USA, its first miniseries, scheduled to premiere March 15.

Halmi said he’s got two other miniseries in development for USA: a biography of media baron William Randolph Hearst and the previously announced adaptation of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn.”

The budgets of A&E’s “Barnum” miniseries and the “Rue Morgue” movie will be comparable with the production cost of original minis and movies commissioned by the broadcast networks, sources said.

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