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Film Company Aims to Revive Kids' Matinees

June 25, 2003|James Bates | Times Staff Writer

A veteran entertainment executive has formed a children's film company that plans to bring back weekend kids' matinees at three major theater chains -- along with a big dose of product placement and marketing.

David Pritchard, former chairman of "The Simpsons" producer Film Roman, announced on Tuesday a deal with Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp., Cinemark USA Inc. and Carmike Cinemas Inc. to screen lower-budget animated and live-action films produced by Pritchard's Santa Monica-based company, Fat Rock Entertainment.

Films will screen on as many as 1,500 theaters from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends and during school vacations, periods when theaters often are dark. As an incentive, the chains will share some of Pritchard's ancillary revenue, such as from DVD and video sales.

Separately, Pritchard also announced a deal with units of Universal Studios Inc. to distribute the films on home video, DVD and television. Universal also may opt to distribute the films in foreign markets.

The deal includes six films over three years and will include pictures tied to such Hasbro Inc. toy properties as "My Little Pony" and "Super Soakers."

Pritchard said he is raising about $50 million, some from consumer product companies that market goods to children, to fund G-rated movies that would cost $7 million to $10 million.

Pritchard plans to screen a 15-minute short film that will include product placements before each movie. Children also will be given bags of product samples and coupons when they leave theaters, he said.

Pritchard said he expects to get criticism for the plans to market extensively to kids, but said that such programs are necessary these days to fund productions.

"I know I'll get some criticism from parent groups and watchdogs," Pritchard said. "At the same time, you can't put any kids product out there without having licensing programs attached."

Pritchard was dismissed from Film Roman in 1999 amid a languishing stock price. Before that, he was an executive at such companies as Home Box Office and Chase Manhattan Bank.

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