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Saban on spending spree to feed Fox Family Channel

Ups acquisition war chest to $60 mil

Looking to feed the voracious appetite of the newly formed Fox Family Channel, Saban Pictures Intl. has boosted its acquisitions war chest to $60 million for 1998.

According to Stan Golden, president of Saban Intl. Services, the money will be used to purchase up to 40 feature films and longform projects this year.

“We are looking to take all rights to new projects in order to feed the Fox Family Channel and our international output deals,” said Golden.

In the first of a series of aggressive buys for FFC, Saban has taken the domestic cable and satellite rights to 32 pics from Paramount Pictures, 18 films from Hearst Entertainment and 10 from MGM.

The Paramount package includes titles such as the Johnny Depp/Leonardo DiCaprio starrer “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” and “Airplane II,” while among the MGM titles is the Pauly Shore comedy “Bio-Dome.”

Some of the new movies acquired will premiere on one of Saban’s U.S. television outlets. Others may go direct to video.

The sharply increased financing for features reflects Saban’s broadening acquisition policy — and a slight shift away from low-budget thrillers and actioners that have characterized its slate to date.

“Many outlets worldwide are still looking for thrillers, especially thrillers with some action,” said Susan Cooper, Saban Entertainment’s vice president, television-motion pictures. “We will be expanding our genres in the broadest sense and buying family product that plays well to both children and adults.”

In 1997, Saban said it spent roughly $40 million acquiring and producing 20-25 new features.

Currently in production at Saban are “Addams Family Reunion,” starring Tim Curry and Daryl Hannah, and another in-stallment of the “Richie Rich” franchise.

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