NEW YORK — In a continuing effort to establish itself as a showcase for American films, public television's "American Playhouse" series plans to present a "movie festival" this summer.
Set to air Saturday nights during prime time on public television stations around the country--including KCET in Los Angeles--the series will run for 10 weeks, beginning June 28, and will feature some "American Playhouse" productions from the last four years.
Begun as a drama series, the weekly "American Playhouse" increasingly has focused on independent films, which frequently are financed with the help of investors seeking theatrical distribution for the movies as well as screening on public television.
(The series is to open its fifth season Jan. 20 with Peter Purnell's "The Rise and Rise of Daniel Rocket" and will run until June 16.)
"We want to be associated in peoples' minds with fine American films, and this summer's series will give more people the opportunity to find us," said "American Playhouse" executive producer Lindsay Law. He expressed hope that people who have missed various presentations will use the summer festival as an opportunity to catch up, and that a new audience looking for alternatives to reruns on the commercial networks also will tune in.
Law said the festival was "packaged" for about $15,000 and will consist of two types of fare: "real movies"--including James Ivory's "The Europeans" and Lynne Littman's "Testament," both of which aired last year on "American Playhouse" after having been released theatrically--and "dramas that feel like movies, in the sense that they're shot with a cinematic style."
Already chosen, Law said, are "The Killing Floor," Elsa Rassbach's 1984 drama about an interracial meatpacking union in Chicago, and "Go Tell It on the Mountain," a dramatization of the James Baldwin novel, which aired last year on the series.
In a related announcement, Law said John Malkovich, Eli Wallach and Australian actress Judy Davis have been signed to star in an "American Playhouse" production of Clifford Odets' 1938 romantic play, "Rocket to the Moon."
The 90-minute film is set to be shot next month for airing May 19 on public television stations as a last-minute addition to the 1986 lineup.