HBO has ‘Earth’ mates

Foreign co-prod'n trio set for 13-hour docu

NEW YORK — HBO Enterprises has lined up three foreign co-production partners for its 13-hour docudrama “From the Earth to the Moon”: France’s Canal Plus, Germany’s CLT/ufa and Spain’s Sogecable.

At a cost of about $50 million, “Earth to the Moon,” with Tom Hanks as executive producer (and director of one of the 13 one-hour episodes), is the most expensive miniseries ever mounted by a broadcast or cable network.

Charles Schreger, president of HBO Enterprises, says he’s in negotiations with a media company in the United Kingdom and one in Japan to complete the roster of pre-production participants who’ll help to finance the mini, which “chronicles the voyages of the Apollo astronauts and the 12 manned Apollo missions,” according to HBO.

Record rights

Although Schreger declined to discuss the license fees from HBO’s partners, various sources say “Earth to the Moon” could harvest a total of $15 million or so from the five international companies, who’ll get the rights to distribute the 13 hours in each of their territories. That $15 million would end up as a record price in the five countries for a project of this kind.

These sources say that once the mini completes production, HBO Enterprises could rack up another $10 million from the rest of the world for the finished product.

“Our first concern was that, outside the U.S., the miniseries would be considered strictly an American project,” says Schreger. “But it turns out that everybody knew the Apollo space program,” at least in part from the worldwide success of Universal’s “Apollo 13” theatrical, starring Hanks.

Chuck Larsen, a TV-distribution consultant who’s the former president of worldwide distribution for MTM Enterprises, says he found the same worldwide interest in the U.S. space program when he took the syndicated series “The Cape,” a contemporary drama about NASA astronauts, to foreign countries, grossing a healthy $600,000 an episode beyond American shores.

“Foreign buyers never told me, ‘That’s too American,’ ” Larsen said.

“Earth to the Moon” began production at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida four months ago. It’s a production of HBO, Imagine Entertainment and Clavius Base. The producers are Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Michael Bostick. The co-executive producers with Hanks are Bridget Potter and Tony To. Among the directors of individual episodes are Frank Marshall, James Foley, Frank Darabont, Ted Demme and Lili Fini Zanuck.

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