ESPN to Release Movie Theatrically


Pasadena, Calif. -- ESPN will distribute critically acclaimed independent documentary Through the Fire in theatres beginning Feb. 10, one full month before the movie bows on the network March 12.

The movie -- which chronicles Portland Trailblazers point guard Sebastian Telfair’s senior year in high school before he entered the pros -- will also be released on DVD with additional footage two days after it appears on ESPN, according to executive vice president of content John Skipper, who spoke at the network’s Television Critics Association tour session here Thursday.

ESPN senior VP of original programming Ron Semiao doesn’t believe the different distribution platforms for the movie will hurt its box-office or television appeal.

In another unusual distribution window for an original film, ESPN, in a four-day period in June 2007, will air horse-racing-tinged original movie Ruffian on its linear cable channel, sister broadcast network ABC, its ESPN360 broadband service, ESPNHD, ESPN on Demand and Apple Computer Inc.’s “iTunes” download broadband site. “Ruffian’s story is one of the most poignant of her time,” Skipper said. “This project will continue our strategy to make content available to consumers across multiple platforms and serve fans with superior original programming.”

In other ESPN news, the network announced the July 18 debut of the sophomore season of reality boxing series The Contender. Former boxing champion and Contender star Sugar Ray Leonard said the series will feature more boxing action than NBC’s more-profile-driven version. ESPN acquired the rights from NBC in 2005.

The network will even prohibit children of the fighters from sitting down at ringside during an event to focus on more of the action in the ring. “This time around, we’ll be more boxing-specific," Leonard said.