TNT Budgets $300M for Original Movies

Turner Network Television will allocate a major portion of its $300 million original programming budget between 2003 and 2005 toward the development of at least a dozen scheduled original movies.

But while the network will spend about $8 million per film, executives said it has only set aside a small portion of its ambitious programming budget for the development of original series — and has yet to announce any new projects.

TNT will work with such acclaimed producers as Jan de Bont, Neil Simon and John Woo to create original films that will resonate with the network's "We Know Drama" tagline, said TNT executive vice president and general manager Steve Koonin.

"The list of top talent that we've assembled for these movies is unprecedented in TNT and cable history," Koonin said.

Among the subjects TNT will explore: a remake of the 1970s romantic comedy The Goodbye Girl;
and features on outlaw Jessie James, lawman Wyatt Earp and daredevil Evel Knievel.

"If you look at the movies, they all have pre-sold demand, whether it's a remake of The Goodbye Girl
or the legend of Evil Knievel, there's someplace to start for the viewer to understand what's going on," Koonin said.

The movies can be packaged with existing TNT programming to create a block of genre-specific fare, he added.

The movies will roll out between 2003 and 2005, with TNT airing approximately four to six movies a year, said Koonin.

Despite no mention of original series within the programming slate, Koonin said the network remains committed to the format and expects to have announcements "shortly."

Last summer, TNT axed Witchblade
— its only scripted series — arguing that the supernatural cop series had run its creative course.

De Bont (Speed, Twister) will direct SWAT, a movie based on a rogue 1960s Los Angeles police squad, while Simon will produce a contemporary turn on his own The Goodbye Girl. Woo and producer Terence Chang (Face/Off, Mission Impossible II), will produce I Jesse James.
Among the other movies included in the original slate:

  • Pleading Guilty,
    a conspiracy-thriller based on Scott Turow's best-selling novel of the same name;
  • Night Over Water
    , an action-thriller set at the onset of World War II;
  • She,
    a three-hour original draw based on a lost African kingdom ruled by a mysterious queen;
  • Voyage to Mars, the story of a space race between the U.S. and China;
  • Where Is the Mango Princess?, starring Julianna Margulies (TNT's The Mists of Avalon, ER) in the story of a woman trying to
    keep her family together after her husband suffers a debilitating brain injury;
  • And Honus and Me, a product of TNT's movie production alliance with Johnson & Johnson, in which a kid travels back in time to meet baseball great Honus Wagner.

On Dec. 8, TNT will air its second "Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation" — Miss Lettie and Me, starring Mary Tyler Moore and Burt Reynolds.

In 2003, TNT plans to premiere Monte Walsh
(Tom Selleck and Isabella Rossellini); Framed
(Rob Lowe and Sam Neill); Second Nature
(Alec Baldwin and Powers Boothe); and Prince Charming
(Martin Short and Christina Applegate).

The network is also expected to bow Bad Apple, starring Chris Noth (Sex and the City, TNT's upcoming miniseries Caesar), one of several potential movies based on novelist Anthony Bruno's Bad

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.