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‘Poseidon’ docks at NBC

Telepic may air before tentpole pic is released

Wolfgang Petersen’s big-budget remake of “The Poseidon Adventure” — one of Warner Bros.’ major tentpoles for summer 2006 — is getting some competition from an unexpected source: NBC.

In an unusual move, the Peacock net has snatched up a Robert Halmi-produced adaptation of novelist Paul Gallico’s “Poseidon Adventure” that had been headed to cable’s Hallmark Channel.

Four-hour pic — starring Steve Guttenberg, Peter Weller, Rutger Hauer, Bryan Brown and Adam Baldwin, and made for an estimated $20 million — went into production late last year and has wrapped lensing.

Because the movie is already in the can, NBC will be able to air its take on “Poseidon” well before the planned May 6, 2006, release of the Petersen-helmed, Mike Fleiss-produced pic.

Bigger push

Had Halmi’s telepic remained at Hallmark, it’s unlikely Warner Bros. would have paid much attention to the project. Cabler has decent distribution, but its marketing campaigns on behalf of individual telepics are relatively modest.

But with NBC Universal behind the project, it’s a given the Peacock will flex its considerable marketing muscle to generate huge awareness of the “Poseidon” movie. It’s not unusual for the net to spend tens of millions in on-air ad time across its various networks — and millions more off-air — on behalf of its longform productions.

“This will be a big, highly promoted project for us,” said NBC Universal cable entertainment and cross-platform strategy prexy Jeff Gaspin.

While the projects will no doubt be vastly different — Peterson will likely spend five times as much coin on his lavish production — the existence of an NBC pic with the same title will at the very least serve as an annoyance to Warners’ marketing team.

Gaspin said the Peacock’s pickup of “Poseidon” stems from a long-held desire to remake the 1972 disaster classic.

“We went to Warner Bros. (a few years ago) and said we wanted to remake it, but we couldn’t afford it,” Gaspin said. Exec went back to the studio while NBC was in production on earthquake movie “10.5,” but this time the net was told Fleiss and Petersen were already doing a project.

“We were too late, and I never thought about it again,” Gaspin said.

Back to the book

But while working with Halmi on “A Christmas Carol” and the upcoming “Hercules,” Gaspin found out the producer was working on his own take on “Poseidon” for Hallmark, using Gallico’s novel — not Irwin Allen’s 1972 feature — as source material. Given the monster success of “10.5,” the Peacock made another play for “Poseidon.”

Gaspin dispatched NBC movies and minis exec Stephen Bulka to watch a rough cut of “Poseidon” sans f/x. “He came back to me and said, ‘This’ll work,’ ” Gaspin said.

NBC will now get the first window on “Poseidon,” with an option for another airing. Hallmark Channel will then get back rights to the pic.

Sharing the show

Peacock also may choose to air the pic as a one-night, three-hour event, thus giving Hallmark the chance to air new footage not seen on NBC, Gaspin said. Gaspin wouldn’t disclose how much the net paid for the pic, but the pricetag is said to be within the normal range for an event two-part movie.

Halmi’s “Poseidon,” helmed by John Putch, will have much in common with the original novel and pic, including a motley crew of survivors and the New Year’s Eve setting. There’ll be one major — and timely — twist, however.

“The main difference in storyline is that a terrorist takes over the boat and blows a hole in it,” Gaspin said. “After that, it’s all about survival, about climbing (out) of the boat.”

Gaspin has been a big fan of “Poseidon” dating back to his 15th birthday, when his parents arranged for him and his friends to see the original pic at Gotham’s old National theater.

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