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Quick hits from NATPE

Lionsgate’s TV distribution honcho Jim Packer sat down with Variety to talk features, digital and “Anger Margin Call New Poster Management” (see related), and he took a victory lap for the banner’s “Margin Call,” which earned a best screenplay nom from the Academy today. “We did day-and-date with theatrical for ‘Margin Call,'” he said. “It worked with theaters, it worked with VOD, and now it has a best screenplay nomination. You had pundits saying, ‘it’s not a real theatrical movie!’ Well, yes it is.” The VOD promotion, he said, was just good sense for a brainy indie film. “Could you have spent $25 million advertising for P&A (promotion and advertising)? Well, maybe if money was silly and you didn’t care, but there are a lot of great movies that just won’t justify a $25 million P&A spend.”

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At a Tuesday NATPE session in Miami, Viacom Entertainment group prexy Doug Herzog admitted to an aud of TV industryites that the company had gone in the wrong direction with guy-centric cabler Spike. “We were so focused on young guys that we chased everybody else away,” he said. “We were too young, and too guy.” The net, he said, is in unscripted-only mode until its financials start to look up, and it’s looking into content that will appeal to a broader base. On a lighter note, Herzog said the hardest thing about running Comedy Central was trying to be funny. “I found that being cool at MTV was a lot easier,” he laughed. “I could fake that.”

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MadmenThis year’s Tartikoff honorees all held court on Wednesday after the gala awards cermony. Matt Weiner’s Wednesday session was among the best-attended of the confab. The “Mad Men” creator talked about how the indirect inspiration for his hit series – Reganomics. “I was going to college during the Reagan eighties and all these people who had grown up in the sixties had gotten very conservative and were still talking about how they had invented sex.” College, he said, was a weird experience in that environment, especially after the AIDS crisis hit. “It’s not still the sexual revolution when they give you a dental dam in your freshman orientation kit,” he said ruefully. “I’m not kidding.”

He also gave with the show’s direct progenitor – “The Great Gatsby.” “It’s like the Bible now,” he said. “It’s not a bad thing to say that you’ve been influenced by or stolen from, but if Fitzgerald was here now he’d be like, ‘Hey, you stole my story!'”

Weiner also said that incorporating season-long arcs had helped ground the show, and that the sometimes absurd power plays between characters that drive a lot of TV drama weren’t for him.

“There are people who do it amazingly, but I can’t do it,” he said. “Don would have been an astronaut by the end of the season. Really, he would have been. ‘The space program is calling, Don!”

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