Aims to produce prime time tv series'
RHI Entertainment is setting up shop in Los Angeles for the first time as it looks to expand into the primetime series biz.The company, headed by Robert Halmi Jr. has named longform vet Tom Patricia and former Mandalay TV prexy Elizabeth Stephen to run the West Coast outpost, which just opened its doors in West L.A. The push to break into the hourlong series arena comes a few months after Jeff Sagansky, former CBS Entertainment topper and Sony Pictures co-prexy, was named non-exec chairman of RHI. Patricia will serve as exec veep of movies and miniseries, Stephen as exec VP of series. RHI founder Robert Halmi Sr. has been in the TV movie-and-mini business for decades, but the company has yet to venture into series. Halmi Jr. said RHI would provide its own deficit financing for series projects, as it has historically for its longform projects. “We’re a big company,” Halmi told Daily Variety. “We see this as a great time to strike in this marketplace and take more market share from our competitors. Under Jeff’s leadership, we expect to be a player in dramatic TV series.” RHI, which has a sizable international distribution operation based out of New York, produces as many as 40-50 longform projects each year. The company has two projects lensing at present for Sci Fi Channel, “Phantom” and “Riverworld,” and both are eyed as backdoor pilots for series. The Halmi shingle will emphasize its specialty of fantasy and sci-fi in series development but it is also eyeing a number of more straightforward procedural projects. Half-hours are not on the horizon anytime soon. Patricia comes to RHI after working extensively as a producer of longform projects for Lionsgate TV and after serving exec stints at Mandalay Entertainment and Artists Television Group, among others. In addition to Mandalay TV, where she shepherded the Showtime drama series “Brotherhood,” Stephen previously worked in film and TV development for Avnet/Kerner Co. and Hollywood Pictures. Patricia’s mandate is to expand RHI’s palette of producers with whom it works on longform projects. Halmi Sr. will continue to develop his own projects but will work closely with Patricia on the growth plan. “I want to make RHI a home for writers, producers, actors and directors who want to be in the longform business,” Patricia said. Stephen said she expects the nets and cablers will welcome the entry of RHI as a self-sufficient indie supplier at a time when they have few options beyond the major studios for scripted series. “Every network is trying to figure out a way to provide great content at a particular price,” she said.