Malina pics up MTV lineup

Exec sez goal is to sked four original movies a year

NEW YORK — MTV is developing and producing a varied lineup of original movies and has elevated Maggie Malina , the exec in charge of the pictures, to senior VP.

The two projects now in the works, “Volcano High” and “Monster Island,” illustrate that diversity, Malina said.

“Volcano High” is a Korean-language kung-fu movie about a high schooler with unique powers. Malina saw the movie at the Toronto Film Festival in 2002 and said MTV will hire American actors to dub the dialogue and redo the soundtrack with hip-hop music. It will air later this year. MTV’s “Volcano” partner is Distant Horizon.

“Monster Island” is a satire of sci-fi movies about giant insects that disrupt an MTV concert taking place on a tropical atoll. Ilan Briel is exec producer and the director is Jack Perez, who co-wrote the screenplay with Adam Glass. Production starts next month, and the target air date is the first quarter of 2004.

MTV’s previously announced movie, an updated musical version of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” starring Erika Christensen (“Traffic”), premieres Sept. 4.

Malina, who said her goal is to schedule four original movies a year, declined to comment on budgets. But because the telepic projects are not meant to have a long commercial life and are unlikely to score big revenues from overseas, MTV will keep the production costs low, in the $2 million to $3 million range, shooting often in Canada to save money.

Also in development for MTV is “Faust,” an updated version of Goethe’s classic planned as the network’s second “hip-hopera.”

The first was a modern-day version of “Carmen,” starring Beyonce Knowles, which beat all of its cable-network competitors in persons 12-34 when it premiered in May 2001. Writer-exec producer Mike Elliot, who did “Carmen,” is also working on “Faust.”

Other projects in the works include a drama about behavioral-modification centers for teenagers; a college-set romantic comedy centering on affirmative action; a biopic about the record companies’ least favorite person, Shawn Fanning, the man who invented Napster; a contemporary version of “The Phantom of the Opera” set in a performing-arts high school; and a thriller about a UCLA undergrad who goes undercover to get information on campus-based hate groups.

Malina said she’s commissioning movies not only from MTV sister company Paramount TV but from any production house that comes up with a movie idea that’s right for the network’s target aud of persons 12-24.

When MTV commissions a movie from outside the Viacom family, Malina said, the network will often buy just the U.S. basic-cable rights for a specific number of runs and years. The movie would then revert to the producer-distributor.

MTV hired Malina in September 1998 as a VP to start up the movie division. Before that, Malina was VP of production for Gale Anne Hurd’s Pacific Western Prods.