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Paramount Debuts DTV Unit

20 Aug, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

More than a year after its formation, Paramount Home Entertainment’s ambitious direct-to-video initiative is getting its official public unveiling, with a branded name, concrete production and release plans, and a series of senior management appointments.

The new unit, under the direction of former Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Louis Feola, will operate as Paramount Famous Productions, a nod to its intent to exploit its library of high-profile theatrical features with direct-to-video sequels, prequels and spinoffs.

Principal photography has just wrapped on Without a Paddle: Nature’s Calling, a sequel to the successful 2004 theatrical comedy about three men on a camping expedition to find the lost D.B. Cooper bounty, which grossed $58.2 million in U.S. theaters.

The film is scheduled for release in early 2009. Meanwhile, Paramount Famous Productions is developing more than a half dozen other projects, based on such hit movies as Road Trip, Bad News Bears, The Naked Gun, Mean Girls and Grease.

Ultimate plans call for the division to release five to six films a year, beginning in 2010, most of them based on theatrical pictures in the libraries of Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage, DreamWorks Pictures, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies. Paramount Famous Productions also will develop filmed entertainment content with Viacom-owned cable networks such as BET, Comedy Central and Spike TV.

“The name Paramount Famous Productions speaks to the studio’s rich history and reputation for delivering world-class, memorable entertainment to diverse audiences,” said Feola, the unit’s president. “We plan to continue building on Paramount’s legacy and the strength of Viacom’s brands by developing tailor-made entertainment to moviegoers who choose to view our films on today’s expanding, non-theatrical distribution platforms such as Blu-ray and VOD.”

Kelley Avery, president of worldwide home entertainment for Paramount Pictures, said she expects Paramount Famous Productions’ DTV movies “will further enhance our robust portfolio and position in the industry.” Paramount this year is bringing to DVD and Blu-ray Disc two of the year’s top three movies, Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, as well as Kung Fu Panda, at $211.4 million the year’s No. 6 theatrical grosser.

Paramount Famous Productions also has announced a trio of executive appointments to help Feola run the division.

Peter M. Green, tapped as SVP, development and production, was senior VP of programming and production for cable video game network G4. He previously spent 13 years at the Walt Disney Co., where as president and producer of Fountain Productions he developed dozens of projects, including The Parent Trap 2, Herbie Rides Again and Inspector Gadget 2, the latter Disney’s first foray into the live-action DTV market.

Joel Goldstein, SVP of business affairs for Paramount Famous Productions, previously spent eight years at Village Roadshow Pictures, most recently as VP of business and legal affairs.

And Traci Nishida, VP of finance, comes to Paramount from NBC Universal, where she spent more than 18 years as a finance executive.

All three report to Feola.

Paramount is one of several major studios plunging headfirst into the lucrative business of producing movies directly for the home entertainment market, particularly now that delivery channels are widening with the advent of viable VOD and digital downloading options.

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