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Family volume at WB

In the most recent example of studios gearing slates toward an increasingly family-oriented audience, Warner Bros. Thursday confirmed the creation of its Family Entertainment banner.

The new product logo will feature Bugs Bunny chewing on a carrot and leaning on the WB crest.

Warner Bros. has discussed creating the family-oriented label since at least 1991 (Daily Variety, Dec. 9, 1991).

John Hughes’ upcoming Mason Gamble starrer “Dennis the Menace”– slated for release June 25 — will be the first Family outing this year, followed by “Free Willy,” Broadway adaptation “The Secret Garden,””George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” and “Batman: The Animated Movie.” WB sources say a similar slate is in preparation for next year.

The Family Entertainment label is meant to identify toddler-safe fare among all the products the studio puts out. But WB sources hastened to add that shouldn’t be seen as a concession to mounting criticism in the press and on Capitol Hill that Hollywood fare has gotten too violent.

“This is not a reaction to what’s been in the press, and you will still see a varied menu from the Warner Bros. production group,” said Rob Friedman, WB prexy of worldwide distribution and marketing. “The industry has identified a growing family audience … the baby boomers are now parents, and the family orientation is growing as a business.”

He added that the new label has been long in preparation.

“We have been developing the business toward this end, and have also built up the licensing division,” Friedman added. In Los Angeles’ Beverly Center shopping mall, a fluffy Wile E. Coyote actor already greets customers as they enter the WB flagship store.

Friedman didn’t say how much money had been allotted for the Family Entertainment features, but “the intent is to keep the product lineup.”

Disney sources said they did not feel threatened by the venture.

“I don’t think their announcement changes anything,” said Tom Deegan, Disney VP of corporate communication. “Anyone is free to pursue the family business, which certainly seems to be a big one.” Asked if it’s also big enough for two head-to-head rivals, Deegan said only that “we remain friendly competitors. The family market has always been there, but Hollywood has just chosen to ignore it in the past.”

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