Weinstein pacts with RHI for Hallmark output

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The Weinstein Co. and its home entertainment arm, Genius Products, have struck two five-year pacts with RHI Entertainment, a leading TV movie and miniseries producer known for its Hallmark Hall of Fame line.

Under one deal, the Weinstein Co. will co-produce and co-finance new TV movies, series and miniseries; under the other, Genius will serve as the North American home video and digital distributor of the former Hallmark Entertainment's library of more than 600 titles.

The companies said in a statement that they are eyeing five years of co-productions, with worldwide home video and digital distribution for joint and separate RHI projects going to Genius for five years from each title's initial home video release date.

Genius anticipates the new deal will grow its library by 40-50 films a year during the next five years. With the initial influx of 600 RHI programs, the Genius library automatically increases to more than 1,800 titles.

Worldwide television distribution of all titles will be handled by RHI.

RHI expects to produce annually some 40 TV movies for Spike TV, the Sci Fi Channel and the Hallmark Channel, as well as five major-network miniseries that will be distributed by Genius.

The deal brings together two partners with aggressive growth plans. RHI has cut a series of deals since Robert Halmi Jr. and Robert Halmi Sr., with the help of investment firm Kelso, bought Hallmark Entertainment back from Hallmark Cards in January for around $700 million -- double what the pair had sold the company for in 1994.

On Oct. 5, RHI announced it had purchased a library of more than 600 original TV movies, miniseries and series from Crown Media, which bought them from Hallmark Entertainment in January 2001. The acquisition gave RHI all exploitation rights in the U.S. and worldwide remake, prequel and sequel rights. Titles in the deal include "Animal Farm," "Cleopatra," "Gulliver's Travels," "Gypsy" and "Moby Dick."

A week later, RHI agreed to produce at least a dozen movies and three miniseries for the Hallmark Channel in 2007. Toward the end of the month, RHI signed a two-year pact with Ion Media Networks' I network to provide the company with a complete weekend programming slate for the network of UHF broadcast stations, reaching an audience of more than 92 million.

Since brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein formed their own company in October 2005, they have become majority owners of Genius Products, which has been bulking up since former Warner Home Video executive Trevor Drinkwater took control in early 2005 as CEO. The company plans to handle as many as 300 DVDs next year, including about 30 theatrical features, 24 from the Weinstein Co. and six from Bauer Martinez. Genius also has cut distribution deals in recent months with such major content owners as ESPN for sports programming, Tartan Video and IFC for independent films, ImaginAsian TV for Asian titles, Classic Media for family productions and Wellspring for lifestyle programs.

In September, Drinkwater said that he and his executive team are in "high collaboration" with the Weinsteins and plan to continue to grow the company's asset library in the physical and digital arenas.

A revenue-sharing pact with Blockbuster Inc., announced last month, is expected to generate funding for TWC to produce additional direct-to-video titles.

Gregg Goldstein reported from New York; Thomas K. Arnold reported from Los Angeles.
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