Former Alliance exec joins film channel project

TORONTO

Veteran Canuck industryite Victor Loewy has unveiled his post-Alliance Films plans.

The former CEO is teaming with longtime colleague Robert Lantos and several major industry players on Starlight, a new digital TV channel devoted to Canadian theatrical features, TV movies and docs.

Loewy, who set up Vivafilm with Lantos in the 1970s and went on to co-found Alliance Films with him in 1985, did not reveal future plans when the distrib was bought by rival eOne for C$225 million ($228 million) on Jan. 9

However it’s now clear that Lantos, who quit Alliance in 1998 to set up Serendipity Point Films, had invited Loewy to join him on the Starlight project.

It was made public this week that an application for the proposed channel, to be considered for mandatory distribution on Canuck cablers and satcasters, had been sent to federal broadcast regulator the CRTC on June 1.

Loewy, Lantos and Canaccord Financial chair David Kassie have put up $15 million seed money and are listed as officers on the proposed board, which also includes Mongrel Media prexy Hussain Amarshi, former Serendipity exec producer Mark Musselman and former Canadian Media Production Assn. chairman Norm Bolen.

Bolen, tapped as Starlight’s prexy and CEO, told Variety the venture is “a once-in-a-lifetime” chance to address funding problems Canadian filmmakers face due to declining support from broadcasters and pay TV channels for domestic features.

If approved, the channel would be available to all digital TV subscribers in English Canada, some nine million households, at the estimated cost of 3ยข per day.

A unique feature of the proposal is an estimated $22 million annual fund that will provide full financing for eight-to-12 Canadian features a year — the only other financing required being government tax credits.

The fund would be run by the channel, which would have first broadcast window, and allow for theatrical and home video release.

“Canadians have told us they want to see Canadian films on TV so we’re filling a gap that’s been created in recent years,” said Bolen, referring to a survey commissioned by the channel last year and a 2012 Dept. of Canadian Heritage survey.

The CRTC will start hearings to consider applications for mandatory carriage April 23.

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