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Starz buys ‘Illusionist’ TV rights

Company takes five Yari movies

Starz has bought exclusive pay TV rights to “The Illusionist” and four other movies produced and distributed by Bob Yari Prods.

Among the other titles is “Shortcut to Happiness,” Alec Baldwin’s directing debut which was filmed in 2001 under the title “The Devil and Daniel Webster.”

Pic, which makes its theatrical bow later this year, is an update of the Stephen Vincent Benet story and Archibald Macleish play, about a writer (Baldwin) who sells his soul to the devil (Jennifer Love Hewitt). Anthony Hopkins and Kim Cattrall also star.

Nancy Silverstone, VP of program acquisitions for Starz Entertainment, said the films feature “strong casts, and have good budgets.”

The Yari movie with the earliest availability to Starz — it kicks off in March — is “Winter Passing,” a drama about an actress (Zooey Deschanel) and her novelist father (Ed Harris). Will Ferrell has a supporting role.

In the spring, the comedy “Find Me Guilty” will make its Starz debut. Sidney Lumet-helmed pic stars Vin Diesel as a mobster who defended himself during the longest mob trial in U.S. history. It grossed less than $2 million domestically.

Net will heavily promote the summer bow of “Illusionist” on Starz, premiering it in the Saturday-night showcase for high-visibility theatricals.

Another summer movie for Starz is “Haven” (2004), a crime drama that got only limited theatrical release despite starring Orlando Bloom and Bill Paxton.

“The Illusionist” has grossed $39.7 million in U.S. theaters, making it something of a surprise hit.