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The Sky's The Limit For Disney Channel Hype

March 13, 1985|DENNIS McDOUGAL | Times Staff Writer

Taking hype to lofty new heights, the hierarchy at Walt Disney Productions announced Tuesday that its latest feature film would have its world premiere on April Fool's Day somewhere in the stratosphere.

"It's the first time that a film will have its premiere at 35,000 feet," effused The Disney Channel President, James P. Jimirro.

The announcement that "The Undergrads" (starring Art Carney as a grandfatherly college freshman) would get its first public viewing as in-flight fare on 20 domestic and international airlines was the centerpiece of a Tuesday press conference that was called to announce that the 20-month-old Disney Channel had finally turned a profit.

"The Disney Channel has broken even," Jimirro proudly told about 30 reporters gathered for a Disney-sponsored breakfast in the Rodeo Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel. "It did so in January and in February."

Jimirro would not reveal exactly how much Disney had finally earned from the 1.8 million U.S. subscribers who pay 2,300 cable systems between $7 and $15 a month to receive The Disney Channel. After repeated questions, he did say that Disney had invested "well in excess of $100 million" to get the 19 hours of Daily Disney programming off the ground.

Like its parent production company, The Disney Channel if fighting what Jimirro termed a "kiddie" image in hopes of expanding the pay-television appeal of its programming beyond that of a Winnie-the-Pooh type baby-sitting service.

Offering "The Undergrads" to an in-flight audience is one way the company is fighting the "kiddie" stereotype. A nonviolent, non-sexual "wholesome family entertainment" in the Disney tradition can be offered to a captive, primarily adult audience of 2.8 million--the number of passengers Disney predicts that the 20 subscriber airlines will carry throughout the month of April.

Passengers strapped into their seats aboard United, Delta, Eastern and 17 other airlines will be treated to both a Disney premiere and a trailer extolling the virtues of subscribing to The Disney Channel as soon as they set foot on earth once more.

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