Viner transitions into film production

Phoenix lines up a host of movie projects

He’s known for his high-profile splashes in publishing. But now Michael Viner and his Phoenix New Millennium Books and Audio have quietly taken the plunge into feature film production, tallying credits on a trio of pics.

Phoenix’s first batch of projects cover a wide range: Valerie Breiman’s “Overnight,” starring Anthony LaPaglia and Rachel Blanchard, centers on a couple meeting on a cross-country plane trip. “Peck” revolves around the unlikely friendship between a school’s prettiest girl and a student forced to compete in the science fair. (Viner, whose background includes heading the Incredible Bongo Band in the 1970s, is both music supervisor and associate producer.)

“Hachiko,” starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen, is in post. It’s inspired by a true story of a faithful Japanese Akita who appeared at a train station for 10 years looking for his lost master.

Viner’s had his hand in film before: After publishing “You’ll Never Make Love in This Town Again,” about prostitution in Hollywood, he also directed and produced the 1996 docu based on the tome.

Viner broke into publishing in the mid-1980s as the founder of Dove Books, one of the first producers of books on tape. He’s a master of seizing the moment with swiftly produced titles on hot-button topics and personalities. His current book releases include a look at Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff and “The Bitch Switch” by “Apprentice” castoff Omarosa, and he signed booted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to write an autobiography.

Films were a logical extension of Phoenix’s book biz.

“With all the contacts we have in publishing, it’s been a natural transition for us to look for film projects,” says Viner, who notes that Phoenix retains feature rights on its books, so a Blagojevich biopic, say, would not be out of the question.

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