The Madison Square Garden Network has begun scheduling movies for the first time in its 38-year history, including “All the Right Moves,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight” and the concert/biopic “Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise.”
MSG’s entertainment strategy kicked off in October 2006 when the Garden rebranded itself, extending the sports-centered operation to a combination sports-and-entertainment network. One of the key reasons for the rebranding was the disappearance of MSG Network’s summer staple: the games of the New York Yankees. The Yankees org set up its own sports regional in March 2002 called the YES Network.
MSG covered the loss of the Yankees for the next four years by sharing games of the New York Mets with MSG’s sibling Fox Sports Net NY. But the Mets games vanished from MSG and FSNY in March 2006, turning up on a new sports network set up by the Mets and its partners Time Warner Cable and Comcast.
Despite the defection of the Yankees and the Mets, “MSG is still 75% sports,” said Lydia Murphy-Stephans, executive VP of programming and production for MSG Media. “But we want to take advantage of New York as a hub of entertainment, with actors and musicians appearing at the Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theater,” all three of which are owned by MSG’s parent company Cablevision.
Murphy-Stephans said movies — under the umbrella title “MSG at the Movies” — are only the latest franchise in the network’s entertainment strategy. The Garden created “MSG Originals” for everything from the 10 hourlong editions of “The 50 Greatest Moments in Garden History” to the philanthropy-driven “Concert for New Orleans” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Another franchise, “MSG Concerts,” has featured such performers as Dashboard Confessional, O.A.R., Dispatch, and a half-hour of taped highlights from the “Elton John 60th Birthday” special.
The MSG Network will pretty much keep the content of its movies, which will run every Monday night, to the four-state area (N.Y., New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania) where its 10 million subscribers reside, said Murphy-Stephans. Tom Cruise pic “All the Right Moves,” for example, is set in a Pennsylvania mining town.
Unlike the movies scheduled by other sports regionals, MSG won’t restrict itself to sports-oriented pictures. Thrillers, dramas and romantic comedies set in one of the four states could very well show up on the schedule in a year or two.
Other titles announced by MSG in the current lineup include a 2004 blues-concert picture “Lightning in a Bottle,” the boxing movie “Girlfight,” “Sunset Park” (Rhea Perlman as coach of a black high school basketball team) and “Gracie,” about a teenage girl who becomes a winning soccer player.
MSG will produce wraps for each movie, hosted by Scott Lasky and featuring a guest connected to the movie.