Lifetime makes theatrical impression

Network nabs rights to 'Jane,' 'Nanny Diaries'

Lifetime is moving to corner the market in first network windows of women-oriented theatricals, locking up “No Reservations,” “The Nanny Diaries” and “The Jane Austen Book Club.”

Separately, the channel also continues to ramp up its unscripted output, greenlighting the shows “It’s My Party” and “Matt Titus: Matchmaker.”

On the movie tip, Lifetime Entertainment prexy Susanne Daniels is turning Thursday nights into a primetime destination for recent theatricals, and so far, the strategy is working: Lifetime’s Thursday Nielsens in September are up 83% among women 18-49 vs. those of the same period a year ago, and the number of households is up 17%.

“Our strategy is to buy as many first-window titles as we can for exclusive play for three or four years,” Daniels said. “But when those are too expensive, we’ll buy a mix of pictures, including classic titles like ‘Pretty Woman.’ ”

In addition to “No Reservations,” with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lifetime bought two other first-window movies from Warner Bros.: “Infamous,” the lesser-known Truman Capote biopic; and Curtis Hanson’s “Lucky You,” with Drew Barrymore. Lifetime also bought Sarah Michelle Gellar horror vehicle “The Return,” from NBC Universal Domestic TV. Latter pic was released in theaters by Rogue Pictures.

While Thursday is theatrical-movie night, Lifetime has, in the last six weeks, quietly shifted its original-pic night from Monday to Saturday. Daniels acknowledged that Monday’s ABC powerhouse “Dancing With the Stars” was “just too much competition for our movies.”

Saturday’s original movies have become one of the main weapons in Lifetime’s three-pronged weekend strategy, Daniels said. Friday has become the night for firstrun reality series (“Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead” and “America’s Psychic Challenge” now occupy the slots), and Sunday is the primetime home of scripted series, led by “Army Wives,” the highest-rated show in Lifetime’s history.

“It’s My Party” and “Matt Titus” will air alongside the previously announced Carson Kressley-hosted “How to Look Good Naked” beginning Jan. 4.

“Party” revolves around elite party planners and the shindigs they throw. The first seven segs will feature Orange County planner Brian Dobbin, while the second batch of seven segs will take place in Las Vegas. Kevin Dill and Mechelle Collins will exec produce for Intuitive Entertainment.

“Matt Titus” features the host as he looks to pair singles in New York. Mark Farrell, Mark Elfman and Sara Chazen Leand exec produce for MarkMark Prods.

Lifetime has scheduled “How to Look Good Naked” on Fridays at 9 p.m. starting in January, with “Matt Titus” at 9:30. The O.C. episodes of “It’s My Party” will run at 10 p.m., while the Vegas episodes of “Party” will follow at 10:30.

“We’re expanding our schedule with the next generation of unscripted series in January, an ideal time to launch three ‘feel-good’ reality series,” Daniels said.

(Michael Schneider in Hollywood contributed to this report.)