Snakes, carny fiends on tap for Sci Fi, RHI

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Sci Fi Channel has inked a deal with RHI Entertainment for five original movies, including an Afghanistan-set telefilm starring Jason Gedrick.

The license agreement includes basic cable rights for the U.S. TV premieres of five new horror and thriller projects. Production is set to begin shortly in Romania on three of the movies:

> "Sand Serpents," starring Gedrick, follows American combat soldiers in the Afghan desert who battle the Taliban and a horde of giant carnivorous serpents.

> "Alien Western" is set in an Old West town in the 1890s where monstrous buglike machines from another world attack.

> "Carney," based on the Jersey Devil legend, where a fiendish carnival sideshow attraction escapes and terrorizes a Depression-era Mid-Atlantic town.

Also part of the deal are two previously announced movies: "Hellhounds," directed by Ricky Schroder, and "Rise of the Gargoyle," starring Eric Balfour. Both recently wrapped production on location in Romania.

The two-hour movies are produced for RHI by Muse Entertainment. Muse's Michael Prupas exec produces with RHI's Robert Halmi Sr. and Robert Halmi Jr. RHI also will distribute the titles in key territories worldwide and will be at MIPCOM this month in Cannes.

For RHI, this marks the company's fourth multipicture deal with Sci Fi in the past 12 months. RHI also produced Sci Fi's record-breaking miniseries "Tin Man."

"Last season, we did a third of all of Sci Fi's movies," Halmi Jr. said. "What sets our product apart is that we spend more money so that we can get a better cast and have better production values onscreen."

Thomas Vitale, senior vp programming and original movies at Sci Fi, said the telefilms will premiere in mid- to late 2009, airing during the "Most Dangerous Night of Television" weekend franchise.

"RHI has such a great track record in the genre," Vitale said. "The (weekend franchise) features movies are that are fun, escapist entertainment, and these movies are a perfect fit for that brand."

Sci Fi in the summer added Sunday nights to the "Most Dangerous" franchise. It said its original movies are showing growth among households and total viewers. (partialdiff)
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