New safari warden

Patrick tapped to lead Nat'l Geo Ventures

NEW YORK — National Geographic Ventures, the division set up to produce Nat Geo theatrical movies and TV series and run its cable networks worldwide, has hired Dennis Patrick as president.

Patrick, based in Washington, D.C., said he’d be working closely with the L.A.-based chairman of the company’s theatrical movie division, Jake Eberts.

Patrick succeeds Richard Allen, who left to become president-CEO of Paul Allen’s Vulcan Sports Media.

“National Geographic is a world-class brand name, and the kind of programming it deals with, like action-adventure, environment and geography, is a hot category right now,” said Patrick. The industry veteran’s varied career has included stints as president of AOL Wireless, CEO of Time Warner Telecommunications and chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

‘Wolf’ on horizon

Among the titles set for production are “The Unwanted” and “Wolf B36.” Former, directed by Joan Chen, is based on the memoir of an Amerasian boy who endured years of deprivation in Vietnam before emigrating to the U.S. and gaining American citizenship; latter was directed by Mark Lewis, who co-penned the script with Sara Corbett, based on her New York Times Magazine article about 66 wolves relocated to Idaho under the Endangered Species Act over the objections of local ranchers.

National Geographic’s first movie was Harrison Ford starrer “K-19: The Widowmaker,” released in July by Paramount.

In development are “Endurance,” a Wolfgang Petersen project about the Antarctic expedition of Ernest Shackleton, and a movie based on Stephen Ambrose’s nonfiction bestseller about Lewis and Clark, “Undaunted Courage.” Nat Geo produced a separate film on Lewis & Clark for the large-screen Imax format.

‘Reptile’ right

TV shows produced by Nat Geo include the daily half-hour news journal “National Geographic Today” and the weekly series “Reptile Wild With Dr. Brady Barr” on the National Geographic Channel. For MSNBC, the division produces the weekly two-hour “National Geographic Explorer.”

Cable channel also falls within Patrick’s bailiwick, and he pointed to last week’s declaration by Tony Vinciquerra, CEO of the Fox Networks Group, that the network will start showing profits in 2004, well ahead of the original business plan.

Patrick lauded Fox for its success in attracting subscribers to the channel, which now reaches 37 million cable and satellite homes.

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