KCET taps WB vaults for Saturday night film series

Sheen hosts presentation of classics

Los Angeles pubcaster KCET has struck a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution to launch the "KCET Saturday Night Movie," a weekly franchise that will be hosted by Martin Sheen featuring classic films from the Warner Bros. Entertainment library.

The franchise is set to air at 10 p.m. Saturdays, debuting May 5 with the James Dean starrer "East of Eden." The movies are licensed for a one-time TV broadcast and will be shown unedited for television, with one brief intermission.

The parties noted that the film program was made possible by support from Warner Bros. Entertainment, which is the first studio to enter into an agreement with KCET to broadcast selected titles each week. WBDCD president Eric Frankel declined comment on the license fees paid by the station but said they were "extremely reasonable."

"This is our effort to help public television give back to the Los Angeles community, which is the heart and home of Warners," Frankel said, adding that the deal came about after he was approached by KCET about launching a movie night. "We're really terrific at running a really competitive business and extracting large license fees from publicly traded conglomerates, but in this case, it's about sharing the terrific movies we've produced over all of these years."

Other titles in the deal include "Amadeus" (airing May 12), "The Grifters" (May 19), "Chariots of Fire" (May 26), "Blade Runner" (June 2), "Body Heat" (June 9), "Cool Hand Luke" (June 16), "Coma" (June 23) and "Superman" (June 30) along with "Rebel Without a Cause," "Strangers on a Train" and "Bonnie and Clyde."

KCET president and CEO Al Jerome called the partnership with WBDCD "groundbreaking."

"These are some of the greatest movies ever made, rarely in theaters or on TV," Jerome said. "This is a great opportunity to see them as they were meant to be originally shown."

As host, Sheen will provide additional information and historical perspective about each movie. His relationship with KCET includes appearing in "The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century," the Peabody- and Emmy-winning PBS series about World War I co-produced by KCET and the BBC, and providing a voice-over for the launch of the station's "Infinitely More" promotional on-air spots.

Discussions also are under way for additional elements, including a dedicated URL at kcet.org that will provide links to moviemaking facts and film trivia; a showcase for rarely seen archival materials such as promotional posters, movie trailers and lobby cards; and an online store. DVDs will be offered as part of KCET's membership program.

The "KCET Saturday Night Movie" is the first phase of "Celebrate the Southland — KCET at Ten," a new broadcast initiative that will present extensive local programming at 10 p.m.