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Showtime kidpix strong o’seas

HOLLYWOOD — Almost twoand a half years after debuting a strategy to lure young viewers with new, low-budget kid pics each month, pay cable service Showtime is placing a higher emphasis on children’s programming than ever before.

Showtime’s Original Pictures for Kids series, which began in 1995, continues to churn out an original film in the $2 million budget range every month. “The Westing Game,” based on the popular Ellen Raskin novel and starring Ray Walston and Diane Ladd, is running this month, two more are slated to air this year, two others are in production for early ’98 and more are in development. Network execs say films for the Original Pictures for Kids series are slated to run well into 1999, and will likely continue indefinitely.

Coming to the network in October is “Shadow Zone: My Teacher Ate My Homework,” starring Shelley Duvall, and in December, “Doom Runners,” starring Tim Curry. Two other kid pics, “Goat Christmas” and “Running Wild,” are in production for ’98.

Showtime also unveiled a new, original 22-episode series this year — “My Life as a Dog” — aimed at youngsters 8-14 as part of its Family Series. It’s an example of the network’s belief that children’s programming makes good business sense for a pay-movie service.

“As we developed our original movie strategy for adults, it just seemed like a natural extension to do a series for kids,” says Ann Foley, Showtime exec VP for East Coast programming. “A big part of our audience is kids, so this programming is a critical part of having well-rounded offerings.”

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