Hallmark Orders More Friday Flicks

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New York—Hallmark Channel’s “Friday Night Mystery Movie” franchise returns this summer with fresh telefilm installments — and possibly building momentum to spawn the network’s first original scripted series down the road.

David Kenin, executive vice president of programming, said Hallmark green-lit two more films each of Mystery Woman (starring Kellie Martin), McBride (John Larroquette) and Jane Doe (Lea Thompson) for this summer.

Coupled with an installment each held in reserve, Hallmark will offer nine such films, starting in June.

Speaking at an upfront press preview here March 22, Kenin said Hallmark’s game plan originally was to run all four installments of each project in the first quarter, followed by new films next January. Viewer momentum prompted Hallmark to accelerate that timetable.

Nine original movies to date averaged a 1.3 household rating, delivering 213,000 women ages 25 to 54 and 351,000 adults in that demo, Nielsen Media Research data indicates.

Between the franchise films, two other telepics and a trio of miniseries, Hallmark will present 14 original productions between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Scheduled miniseries are: Frederic Forsyth’s Icon, a four-hour project based on the novel by the best-selling author; The Mysterious Island, an effects-laden adaptation of the Jules Verne tale; and Super Nova, in which a team of scientists discover the next star set to explode is our own sun.

The fresh fare continues Hallmark’s practice of event programming, Kenin said.

Acknowledging Turner Network Television’s long-awaited Into the West project and a spate of other offerings during a historically busy time for cable originals, Kenin said Hallmark would be judicious about scheduling and promoting its projects to boost awareness and viewership.

“I think we’ll do fine,” he said of Hallmark’s summer. “If we didn’t do it, we would really get blitzed.”

Further out, Kenin said one of the mystery-telefilm franchises could yield a series rollout, perhaps in 2007. “They are set up to do that,” he said, adding Hallmark has “a high batting average” with its original-movies strategy.

Hallmark and Hallmark Movie Channel CEO David Evans — citing the high risk of series development — said the “network had made a conscious effort not to go in that direction” yet.

But the Nielsen success of Friday Night Mystery Movies means a series spun out would have a certain built-in viewer equity, Kenin said.

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