Lifetime and Starz team up for movies

Networks to co-produce original features in '08

Lifetime and Starz Media are getting into business together for the first time, co-producing three original movies for 2008.

The two companies will jointly finance, at an average cost of $4.5 million apiece, the three movies, which will premiere on Lifetime in the U.S. and get distribution internationally through Starz Media. Starz will also pick up domestic home entertainment rights to the pictures to fill the pipeline of its Anchor Bay subsidiary.

“The deal is important to Lifetime because I’m getting original movies for the network in perpetuity,” said Susanne Daniels, president of entertainment for Lifetime. Beginning in the third year of the deal, following Lifetime’s nine-month exclusive window to the movies, Starz has three months to take some runs on one of its multiplex pay channels. That nine-month/three-month pattern each year will continue as long as the movies are still pulling viewers.

The form of the deal is not unique to either company. In April, Lifetime engineered a similar three-picture deal with TF1 Intl., the distribution arm of one of France’s leading broadcasters. Lifetime gets the movies for exclusive play in the U.S. and Canada, and TF1 will distribute them outside North America.

And Starz has production deals with ABC for a just-concluded “Masters of Sci Fi” anthology series, with the Sci Fi Channel for a series of original fantasy/adventure movies, with Cartoon Network for two animated “Hellboy” features, and with BET for a half-hour animated series geared for adults called “Bufu.”

The three Starz/Lifetime movies:

  • “Queen Sized,” a drama based on a true story, stars Nikki Blonsky (“Hairspray”) as an overweight teen who overcomes the vicious insults of her schoolmates, ending up as homecoming queen. Exec produced by Bob Sertner and Frank Von Zerneck, the movie is directed by Peter Levin, from a script by Rodney Johnson, Richard Kletter and Nora Kletter.

  •  “True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet,” a comedy starring JoJo and Valerie Bertinelli, about a superstar teen actress who hides from the remorseless paparazzi by moving to Indiana to live with her aunt. It’s from Barbara Lieberman Prods. Tim Matheson is the director.

  • “Wisegal,” a drama based on a true story, deals with a widow (Alyssa Milano) with two sons and a criminal background, who joins a Mafia organization at the request of her lover (Jason Gedrick) and ends up in a life-threatening situation. It’s from Daniel H. Blatt Prods. The director is Jerry Ciccoritti, from a script by Shelley Evans.