Cabler tries to build aud

NEW YORK — The USA Network will try to build an audience in the early evening for a new soap opera set in working-class Queens.

“The Avenue,” the five-a-week half-hour “serial drama” (the phrase USA prefers to soap opera), will be taped in New York by executive producers Stacy Kramer and Lisa Tornell, who are partners in Film Kitchen.

Stephen Chao, president of programming and marketing for USA Networks, said at least 50% of the scenes will take place on locations throughout Manhattan and Queens. Project is a production of Studios USA, a sister company of USA Networks.

Tim Brooks, senior VP of research for USA Networks, said “The Avenue” will be the first adult five-a-week drama ever commissioned by a cable network. The only comparable cable series was Nickelodeon’s 30-minute teen-oriented soap “Fifteen,” which ran from 1991 to 1993.

First quarter of 2000

USA is planning to schedule “The Avenue” — which Chao said will focus on “real” people, not upper-class WASPs who populate the network daytime soaps — sometime during the first quarter of 2000, between 5 and 8 p.m. Chao acknowledges that no serial drama has ever run in that time period in the U.S. but says that England, Australia and some Latin American countries harvest bumper crops of viewers by running these kinds of shows in the evening.

Chao declined to discuss how much money Studios USA will spend to produce the series. Nor would he comment on exactly how many episodes USA plans to guarantee. “But we know that it can take years for a serial drama to become a success,” he said. “Our management will have to have the belief and the stomach to stay with it.”

The creator of “The Avenue” is Todd Komarnicki, a novelist who wrote and directed an independent movie called “My Achilles Heart” and is now adapting the bestselling nonfiction book “The Professor & the Madman” for Mel Gibson and director Luc Besson.

Kramer spent six years as senior VP of Doug Wick’s Red Wagon Prods. at Columbia Pictures. Kramer and Tornell produced the movies “Jawbreaker” and the forthcoming “The Big Split.”

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