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Hallmark's New Movie Madness

Network casts wider net for partners, original films 8/10/2007 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Hallmark Channel has greenlighted the original movie The Good Witch and cast Catherine Bell and Chris Potter in the lead roles. The Halloween-themed film has begun production in Toronto and will run in 2008. Witch features Bell (Lifetime's Army Wives) as a do-gooder witch who helps her fellow townsmen despite being investigated by the sheriff, played by Potter (from the current Hairspray film).

Witch is one of 30 movies on Hallmark's slate for the year, up from the 18-20 yearly the network has made in the past. The increase comes after the network ended its long-running exclusive production deal with the father/son Halmi company, which moved to make films for Lifetime and Spike, among others.

While the Halmis will likely still produce movies for Hallmark, the network plans its movies for this year to be all from new partners. In July, Hallmark hired former Lifetime entertainment chief Barbara Fisher as senior VP of original programming and tasked her with finding new original movie suppliers. They include Orly Adelson (ESPN's Ruffian), who will executive produce Witch with Frank Siracuso and his Whizbang Films.

“These movies are so important to our audience and our ratings and working with new producers brings a little more vitality to the network,” says Henry Schleiff, President/CEO of Hallmark parent Crown Media Holdings Inc. “We're no longer a single producer's home.”

The network is sticking with a family-friendly vibe for the new movies, but trying to embrace new genres and program around holidays it hasn't yet targeted, says Schleiff. Witch is the network's first Halloween-themed movie in years.

Hallmark finished seventh in prime among basic cable networks for the month of July with an average 1.25 million total viewers. The independent network's median age is the mid 60s and its average viewer is in their late 50s. Schleiff says he hopes the new movies will help bring the average down to the mid 40s.

Witch is being produced by Ian Mcdougall (Nuremberg). Craig Pryce is on board to direct the script from Rod Spence.


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