Robert Halmi Sr. Exits RHI Entertainment

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Robert Halmi Sr.

The 88-year-old producer will start his own production company where he will continue to collaborate with RHI on projects he put into development there.

It is finally the end of an era at RHI Entertainment. Robert Halmi Sr., 88, is exiting the company he founded in 1979. The announcement was made Friday by Gabriel de Alba, chairman of the RHI board.

The company - which produced made-for-TV movies and miniseries including Lonesome Dove, Neverland, The Santa Incident and the 2007 Sci Fi Channel mini Tin Man - has had its share of ups and downs. Halmi Sr. and his son, Robert Halmi Jr., sold RHI to Hallmark in 1994 and then bought the company back in 2006. But they were bogged down by too much debt and entered voluntary Chapter 11 proceedings in 2010, wiping away more than $300 million in debt. 

Halmi Jr. exited as president and CEO in July 2011, after the company emerged from bankruptcy protection. At the time, Halmi Sr. entered into a new long-term production agreement at RHI. But the Halmi’s brand of big-budget, family friendly movies and minis are an endangered species on television, where cheaper reality concepts make up an increasing portion of basic cable schedules and the TV movie is all but extinct on broadcast networks. And in a statement announcing Halmi Sr.’s departure, de Alba indicates that RHI will explore new programming genres.

Meanwhile, Halmi Sr. will start a new New York-based independent production company where he’ll continue to collaborate with RHI on projects he put into development at the company.

“As our new management team re-focuses our production strategy, we intend to broaden our portfolio to include television series and other formats that have not traditionally been central to RHI’s business model,” said de Alba in a statement. “This new agreement is ideal for both parties. It ensures that our working relationship with Robert continues and that we can benefit from his singular creative vision, even as the company grows into new areas.”

“I am extremely excited about what the future has in store, having just celebrated my 88th birthday,” said Halmi Sr. in a statement. “I became a producer so that I could follow my passion and create great programming that captivates and enchants audiences.  This arrangement allows me the creative freedom to focus exclusively on what has inspired me from the beginning. I am thrilled to be able to continue to do what I have always loved the most.”