Sam Raimi swings toward primetime

Filmmaker in deal with Sony, taps CBS' Zotnowski

Sam Raimi is making a move in primetime television.

Raimi and Joshua Donen's Stars Road Entertainment has inked a two-year, first-look deal with Sony Pictures TV and has tapped CBS senior vp drama Robert Zotnowski to spearhead the company's TV efforts.

Zotnowski has been running the CBS drama department with Christina Davis since the ascent of Nina Tassler to entertainment president in 2004. Davis is expected to run the department solo after Zotnowski exits Friday.

Tassler called Zotnowski "one of the most talented executives I have had the privilege to work with. He has played a key part in developing some of the most successful dramas on the network."

Zotnowski said the goal for Stars Road is to expand its presence on broadcast TV and cable, with a primary focus on drama. Stars Road will develop in all genres except horror, which will continue to be handled by Raimi's Ghost House Pictures.

Zotnowski, who takes up his post Monday, said a segue to producing had been in the back of his mind as a "natural evolution of working in television," but he wasn't actively pursuing a gig until he met with Donen.

"We felt like-minded about television," said Zotnowski, who said he is "a longtime fan and admirer of Sam Raimi."

As a TV producer with producing partner Robert Tapert, Raimi has made his mark in the action-adventure genre for first-run syndication with such hits as "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and most recently "Legend of the Seeker," on which Donen also serves as an exec producer.

Raimi's primetime efforts have been primarily in the horror genre with CBS' "American Gothic" and the CW's "13: Fear Is Real" and in action-adventure with ABC's "Spy Game" and Starz's upcoming "Spartacus," co-produced by Stars Road.

Since launching Stars Road with Raimi 4 1/2 years ago after representing him for some time, Donen said the plan was to build a formidable presence in television.

"Sam, Rob and I have been very fortunate that our TV ideas have ended up as series," Donen said, "but we realized that we needed somebody dedicated full time to that business."

Tapert will continue to be involved in all of Raimi's TV projects.

On the big screen, Raimi most recently wrote and directed the horror feature "Drag Me to Hell." He has strong ties with Sony as the director of the studio's blockbuster "Spider-man" franchise. The deal with Sony TV complements Stars Road's first-look feature pact with Sony Pictures.

For TV, Raimi did three series for FearNet, the horror-themed, on-demand and online service that is a joint venture of Comcast, Sony TV and Lionsgate: "Devil's Trade," "30 Days of Night" and "30 Days of Night: Blood Trails."

Zotnowski and Davis operated as a team at CBS since being simultaneously named vps drama series in 2005. They were promoted to senior vps in 2007.

CBS' drama department was sturdy last season, boasting the strongest freshman series on any broadcast network in "The Mentalist." It has two buzzworthy new series this fall: "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Good Wife."

Additionally, Zotnowski oversaw the development of CBS series including "Criminal Minds."

Before moving to drama development, he worked in CBS' current department for seven years.

Stars Road is repped by CAA and attorney Craig Jacobson.
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