April 2 Debut for High-Def Hallmark Channel

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David Kenin, executive vice president of programming for the Hallmark cable services, said the RHI Entertainment-produced Son of the Dragon was originally shot for the channel before plans were laid for the HD service. But it was found to fit in nicely.

“It's big, it was shot overseas, it has a huge lush look to it,” Kenin said. “It is a good-looking picture.”

Kenin said the relaunched Hallmark Movie Channel will sport new on-air colors and announcements, but remains committed to offering whole-family movies that appeal to a broad audience that's not really interested in edgy programming.

The channel worked out an acquisition, for an undisclosed but “substantial” sum, from the Hallmark Cards business of virtually every Hallmark Hall of Fame movie after it airs on CBS, Kenin said. Those will be shown on Sunday nights.

Theatrical films earmarked for the HD service include Alex & Emma, The Phantom of the Opera, Never Cry Wolf, Escape to Witch Mountain, Annie and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

The service also will draw on original movies that performed well on Hallmark Channel, such as The Christmas Card, McBride and Jane Doe.

Future programming events likely will come around holidays, including July 4 and Labor Day. Kenin said the nature of those events will depend partly on how well Son of the Dragon performs, but the channel is looking at a couple of possibilities already, which he wouldn't identify.

Janice Arouh, senior vice president of network distribution and service for Hallmark, noted that affiliates have committed to launch Hallmark Movie Channel HD in the second quarter, and said the new HD service will be part of overall contract renewals for Hallmark Channel as well. Current affiliates that carry Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel will get the HD feed at no additional cost, she said.

There has been demand from affiliates for family-oriented movie product in high-definition, Arouh said.

Kenin said Hallmark Channel itself will inevitably need to launch an HD version, but probably not this year.