Hallmark to Hike Original-Movie Production

Hallmark Channel will leverage the success of its format of original made-for-TV movies by expanding its production slate by nearly 50% in 2008.

The family-friendly basic-cable channel currently telecasts about 20 of the telefilms per year, selecting as stars “iconic” performers of classic TV series. For instance, upcoming films feature such stars as Dick Van Dyke, Ernest Borgnine and Valerie Bertinelli. But the slate for 2008 will include 30 films, according to Barbara Fisher, newly installed senior vice president of original programming.

 However, the new executive will not be making any drastic changes in themes. Fisher said, “I’m lucky. We already have a strong brand, unlike any on TV. Our audience is completely devoted to TV movies. They love the genre.”

In addition to expanding the number of films, the network will also expand its stable of producers. Currently, its sole producer is Larry Levinson Productions. Upcoming projects will be created by Gerald W. Abrams (44 Minutes: TheNorth HollywoodShoot-Out) and Orly Adelson, who produced 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story.

Levinson continues to produce for the channel; his company will just not be the exclusive or even dominant contributor to the channel, Fisher said. He produced one of the channel’s upcoming films, If Wishes Were Horses, debuting Aug. 18 and starring Van Dyke, son Barry and grandson Shane.

Although a broader field of producers will be generating content, two things will not change, stressed Fisher and Hallmark CEO Henry Schleiff. The films will retain the current level of quality, and the content will remain a family-friendly mix of romantic comedies, Westerns and other genres that have proved popular with viewers.

The network wants upcoming films to match the success of recent Western Avenging Angel,starring Kevin Sorbo (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman),which scored a 2.6 Nielsen Media Research rating, making it the third-highest film in the channel’s history, according to Hallmark executives.