Unapix scores pair with HBO

'Devil' and 'Mummy' for genre showcase

NEW YORK — Unapix Entertainment has engineered its first deal with HBO for the network’s weekly genre-movie showcase of U.S. premieres, selling “Devil in the Flesh,” starring Rose McGowan (“Scream”), and “Bram Stoker’s Legend of the Mummy,” with Louis Gossett Jr., for about $450,000 apiece.

Various sources say HBO has become the first stop for producers of action movies who are unsuccessful in persuading a the’Deatrical distributor to pick up a movie and premiere it in the multiplexes.

That was the case with “Flesh,” which Unapix financed with Toronto-based Alliance Communications, and “Mummy,” a joint venture with Goldbar Intl., says Robert Baruc, executive VP of Unapix Entertainment.

Sources say Unapix is crowing about the HBO deal because Unapix has failed in the past to sell a busted theatrical actioner to HBO before the movie goes to the video store. For a premiere, HBO will pay between $400,000 and $1 million for a genre movie, buying about 36 of them each year for scheduling in its Friday-night showcase. The picture will then run in other time periods four or five more times over the next six weeks or so, after which it will go back to the producer for cassette shipment to the video stores.

The problem for the producer comes when HBO rejects the busted theatrical as not worthy of the premiere showcase. One source says the producer then has to take the movie to other cable networks, including Showtime, USA, TBS, Family Channel and Sci-Fi Channel, all of which are open to buying a few selected titles, but usually at lower license fees than HBO will pay.

If no cable-network deal materializes, the movie will end up going straight to the video store, where the picture — an unknown commodity — will have to fight it out with the glut of action titles that flow into video in a constant stream.

HBO buys a lot of post-video-store movies, but it will pay only between $50,000 and $100,000 a title and run them off mostly in latenight time periods.

Unapix has sold five of the latter movies to HBO, one of which got a limited theatrical release, “Good Luck,” about a white-water raft race, starring Gregory Hines and Vincent D’Onofrio.

The other four, all of which went straight to video, are: “Strip Search” (Michael Pare, Pam Grier), “Body Armor” (Ron Perlman), “Breeders” (Todd Jensen) and “Diary of a Serial Killer” (Gary Busey, Michael Madsen).

The HBO premiere movie “Devil in the Flesh” also stars Alex McArthur. The director is Steve Cohen, and the producers are Kurt Anderson and Richard Brandes. Baruc is co-executive producer with John Fremes.

“Bram Stoker’s Legend of the Mummy” also stars Amy Locane, Eric Lutes and Victoria Tennant. Jeffrey Obrow is the director and co-executive producer. Harel Goldstein and Bill Barnett are the producers.

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