Creek, Trib possess TV ‘Exorcist’

Move marks Morgan biz expansion

Morgan Creek Prods. and Tribune Entertainment are hoping to turn more than a few heads with a new syndie series based on the spine-tingling 1973 horror classic “The Exorcist.”

Deal, unveiled Wednesday by Morgan Creek topper Jim Robinson and Tribune Entertainment prexy Dick Askin, marks Morgan Creek’s first foray into the syndie TV biz. “Exorcist: The Series” is targeted for a fall 1999 debut.

Partners will co-finance the project, with Morgan Creek handling production and international distribution through its existing deal with Warner Bros.

Morgan Creek brings to the partnership the TV rights to the “Exorcist” franchise, while Tribune provides domestic distribution and the all-important major market clearances on its sizable TV station group. Tribune Broadcasting operates 18 TV stations covering 12 of the top 20 markets, which typically are the toughest markets for new syndie offerings to crack.

Probing good and evil

There’s no word yet on casting, but the series will focus on a central character’s “investigation of mysterious conflicts between good and evil forces of supernatural proportions.” The original pic, directed by William Friedkin, was based on William Peter Blatty’s bestselling novel of the same name.

For Morgan Creek, which installed a new film production management team earlier this year, the move into TV is an important step toward establishing a broader business scope. The production company hasn’t had any big hits since features such as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “Major League” and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”

“This partnership represents the first step in our avowed desire to expand the reach of Morgan Creek,” said Robinson, Morgan Creek’s founder and CEO.

Tribune Entertainment dove into the weekly firstrun drama field last fall with the launch of “Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict” and “Nightman,” both of which made it to a sophomore season. “Exorcist: The Series” would seem a natural fit with the sci-fi and action-adventure series that dot the primetime skeds of Tribune Broadcasting outlets.

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