Here! Hits California Film Festival

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Executives with Here! hope Friday the 13th will prove lucky as they look to entice new Time Warner Cable Desert Cities subscribers.

As part of a push to trumpet the availability of the gay- and lesbian-targeted network as a subscription video-on-demand service, Here! and the MSO will present a special screening of the channel’s original programming during the Palm Springs Film Festival. Those efforts will be highlighted by a personal appearance from cult film director John Waters, who will introduce John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You, featuring the film Fuego, on Jan. 13.

The network has been available for a year, but the cable system began offering it on a subscription basis for $7.95 per month since Dec. 9.

The film festival, running this year from Jan. 5 to 16, was begun in the affluent resort town in 1990 by the city’s then-mayor, Sonny Bono, as a way to attract tourists. Now in its 17th iteration, it draws submissions from all over the world.

In addition to the Here! contributions, 230 films will be shown and the festival will honor performers Charlize Theron and Shirley MacLaine and composer Thomas Newman.

Karen Flischel, executive vice president and general manager of Here!, said the local cable system has promoted the network at local gay-pride events, but the film festival event is the “centerpiece” of Here!’s subscription-VOD rollout.

“Palm Springs is a great market for us,” she said, noting that demographics indicate as much as 40% of the community’s permanent population is gay. Because of the balmy weather, winter is the high tourist season, too, so the network will gain extra exposure among guests to the community, including the many Los Angeles residents.

The network will host a post-screening party at the Biltmore Colony for “invited notables,” she added.

Flischel noted that the network has a corporate agreement with Time Warner to convert Here! markets to a subscription on-demand service in the MSO’s. By the end of 2006, the majority of affiliates will offer the gay-themed network via SVOD.

The network also aims to gain subscribers with strategies such as the release of theatrical films from its founding company, Regent Entertainment, which will appear on SVOD on the same date the movies debut in theaters. Ten titles will be offered this way this year, including April’s Showers.

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