Baldwins set own shingle

Crusader producers roll out new banner

HOLLYWOOD — Producers Howard and Karen Baldwin, who ran Crusader Entertainment for Philip Anschutz the past three years, have set up Baldwin Entertainment Group to develop and produce a slate of three films per year.

The shingle’s first feature projects, originally developed at Crusader, are action-adventure “Mandrake the Magician,” based on the Lee Falk comic strip and in association with Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park; and spiritual drama-mystery “Second Son,” based on the Charles Sailor novel with the aim of offering a combination of “Unbreakable” and “The Passion of the Christ.”

The producing team ankled Crusader — which was recently renamed Bristol Bay — this year after producing half a dozen films including Ray Charles biopic “Unchain My Heart” for Universal; action-adventure “Sahara” for Paramount; true-life drama “Swimming Upstream;” romantic comedy “Danny Deckchair” for Lions Gate; “Sound of Thunder,” based on Ray Bradbury’s story, for Warner Bros.; and soccer drama “The Game of Their Lives.”

Howard Baldwin had been chairman-CEO of Crusader, which stressed family-oriented fare, while Karen Baldwin had been exec VP of creative affairs. The spouses stressed the departure was amicable and that the founding of a new shingle can broaden the type of films that they can develop.

They also plan to provide financing in some cases, such as supplying gap funding or putting up the prints and advertising costs, along with developing select TV programming, and to be involved with sports properties including Howard Baldwin’s American Hockey League franchise in Des Moines, Iowa.

“We think that being on our own will give us more flexibility,” he said. “It’s not that we want to do only R-rated films, but we do want to be able to pursue inspirational projects. We are committed to work closely with the Anschutz Film Group on the projects we produced for the company.”

Prior to running Crusader, the Baldwins’ producing career included such features as “Mystery, Alaska,” “Sudden Death,” “From the Hip,” “Billy Galvin,” “The Cellar,” “The Patriot,” “Resurrection,” “Spellbinder” and “Gideon.”

Baldwin also has an extensive hockey background. He’s the founding father of the World Hockey Assn. and co-brokered the merger of the WHA with the National Hockey League; he’s a former owner of the NHL’s Hartford Whalers and a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins; and once co-owned the Red Army team with the Russian government.

The Baldwins also announced a trio of hires from the Crusader ranks: Nick Ruta as exec VP of business affairs, Todd Slater as exec VP and Nick Morton as exec VP and producer. Slater will oversee distribution and strategic partnerships along with producing.

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