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‘Staircase’ on the rise

True-crime doc debuts on Sundance

NEW YORK — The Sundance Channel has bought exclusive U.S. rights to “The Staircase,” an eight-part true-crime documentary.

Case concerns the murder of Kathleen Peterson in Durham, N.C., on Dec. 9, 2001, and the arrest, trial and conviction of her husband, novelist Michael Peterson, despite his protestations of innocence.

Laura Michalchyshyn, exec VP of programming and marketing, said she wasn’t bothered by the unusual length of the docu because “it’s as compelling as a thriller.” She said the director, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, “had unfettered access to the families, the prosecutors and the defense attorneys.”

One reason de Lestrade got such cooperation from the principals is that his normal-length docu “Murder on a Sunday Morning” won the 2002 Oscar for documentary feature. “Murder” premiered on HBO.

Michalchyshyn said de Lestrade builds the docu like a longform dramatic miniseries, with cliffhangers at the end of each of the eight parts.

Sundance plans to premiere “The Staircase” on April 4 with two episodes running back to back. Two more back-to-back hours will run for three subsequent Mondays at 9 p.m. Sundance will repeat the docu in different patterns later in the spring.

“The Staircase” has already run on the BBC, Canada’s CBC and Canal Plus in France.

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