Sun doesn’t set on ABC show ‘Empire’

Net cuts episode order from eight to six

ABC’s “Empire” has struck back: Net has opted to keep the gladiator-themed series in production, despite serious cost concerns.

But to shave the limited series’ price tag, net has pulled back its order from eight segs to six.

That may seem like a setback for the project, but producers had feared that ABC might scrub it altogether (Daily Variety, May 5).

Instead, Touchstone TV insiders said Alphabet execs were pleased after screening a series of dailies from the project, which has been shooting in Rome since mid-April.

“It’s a very happy ending,” one source said.

Scribe Thomas Wheeler also reconceived “Empire” as a six-episode series, tightening up storylines in the process.

As a result, producers Storyline Entertainment and Touchstone will be able to drop costs by eliminating two hours from the project.

That will still keep the series’ pricetag at around $30 million. “Empire” had been facing serious cost overruns due to a number of hiccups, including a weak dollar-Euro exchange rate and a line producer (later fired) who incorrectly estimated the show’s budget.

With that budget spread out over six episodes, rather than eight, producers said they’ll still be able to spend more per episode and cover the show’s added expenses.

“Empire” follows the story of Julius Caesar’s 17-year-old nephew Octavius, who — with the support of his gladiator, Tyrannus, battles Marc Antony for control of Rome.

Wheeler, Chip Johannessen, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan exec produce the project, which is expected to air sometime in midseason.

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