Seagal’s ‘Patriot’ to bow on HBO

Preem follows lack of interest among theatrical buyers

After failing to strike a theatrical distribution deal, the Steven Seagal-starrer “The Patriot” is headed for a cable premiere on HBO.

The independently produced and financed action-adventure was a co-production between Seagal and Julius Nasso’s Seagal/Nasso Prods. and foreign sales company Interlight Pictures.

The pic, directed by cinematographer-turned-helmer Dean Semler, cost between $25 million and $30 million to make.

The lack of a theatrical release, which will likely result in red ink for the film’s backers, highlights the extreme risks of financing a big-budget, or even a moderately budgeted, independent picture without domestic distribution in place.

Although HBO has not yet signed a deal to buy the film for its HBO World Premiere Films slot, sources close to the cable net said they did not anticipate any roadblocks. No information was available on pic’s price tag. HBO, which typically pays a maximum of $1.75 million for a “busted theatrical,” would not comment. Out of that sum, the producers would have to pay residuals to talent.

Buena Vista has taken all post-HBO U.S. television and video rights to the pic. Another studio, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, holds all rights in certain foreign territories. It was unclear Monday whether the HBO arrangement would impact the deal with CTMPG.

Interlight offered presales of the pic to overseas distribs at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997. At that time the budget was reported as $35 million.

Based on a short showreel which made the studio rounds earlier this year, Interlight generated some interest from domestic theatrical distributors, but failed to strike a deal. A later screening of the finished pic also failed to produce a buyer.

“Patriot” producers are Howard Baldwin, Seagal and Interlight’s Patrick Choi and Nile Niami. Interlight did not return calls seeking comment.

“Patriot,” which co-stars L.Q. Jones, Gailard Sartain and Camilla Belle, is the story of a doctor-turned- survivalist who must save his family and local townspeople from a deadly virus. Pic, penned by Paul Mones and David Ayer, was based on the book “The Last Canadian” by William Heine Prince.

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