Space drama Stargate Atlantis will conclude its run on Sci Fi Channel after the current season ends in January -- but the network has greenlit a two-hour Atlantis movie that will allow the series to live on as a network franchise.
After airing on Sci Fi sometime next year, the untitled Atlantis movie will be sold as a home-video title by producer MGM, Sci Fi told Multichannel News on Wednesday.
MGM this year released two financially successful straight-to-DVD movies that were made after progenitor series Stargate SG-1 ended a 10-year run of first-run cable episodes on Sci Fi. MGM and the show producers are scheduled to make more in DVDs in the future, suggesting a movie franchise is also envisioned for Stargate Atlantis.
Longtime Stargate writers and producers (and Atlantis show runners) Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie will write the Atlantis feature script. Other details, such as how many cast members will participate or who will direct the film, were not immediately available.
"We're excited to tell Atlantis stories on a bigger canvas,” Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper, co-creators of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis and executive producers on Atlantis, said in a statement. “The successes of the two original Stargate [direct-to-video] movies, The Ark of Truth and Continuum, have shown us the opportunities that the movie format offers. We have plans for both SG-1 and Atlantis to remain vital as we expand the franchise."
“We share in the producers’ enthusiasm to move forward in this direction and we look forward to a strong and continued relationship on Stargate Atlantis in this new format,” Thomas Vitale, Sci Fi Channel senior VP of Programming & Original Movies, also said in the statement.
Wright and Cooper are developing a third TV series in the franchise -- called Stargate Universe – and pitched it to Sci Fi Channel in late 2007, Wright told Gateworld.net in April. Sci Fi said nothing about that potential addition in its statement about Atlantis. Sci Fi has aired had new Stargate series in first run since 2002.
Stargate SG-1 ran for 10 seasons, split between first runs on Showtime and on Sci Fi. Stargate Atlantis is a spinoff, launched in 2004. It will hit air its 100th episode this season. Its stars include Rachel Luttrell (as Teyla, pictured above, assisting character Radek Zelenka, played by David Nykl), Joe Flanigan, David Hewlett, Jewel Staite and Robert Picardo.
The series follows the adventures of an intrepid team of military and civilian explorers who travel the distant Pegasus galaxy by means of a Stargate, a portal created long ago by a highly advanced alien civilization called the Ancients. In their never-ending quest to seek out other technologies left behind by the Ancients, the Atlantis team encounters alien cultures – some friend, some foe.
Atlantis reruns already air in broadcast syndication as well as on Sci Fi, which still shows SG-1 reruns too. The current Atlantis season is five episodes into a 20-episode run.
Airing at 10 p.m. Fridays, Atlantis has averaged a little over 2 million viewers per show in a blend of ratings that includes live plus seven-day figures for some episodes, per ABC TV Group research. The average viewer number is well ahead of the first 10 episodes of season four (when it averaged about 1.75 million) and roughly in line with the last 10 episodes of that season.
The series premiere, on July 16, 2004, drew 4.19 million viewers, and the first 10 episodes averaged more than 3 million viewers each, according to the ABC TV Group analysis.
Its viewership declined in each subsequent 10-episode block until the second half of last season, when it rebounded to average more than 2.1 million viewers per show.
Remarkably, the first few episodes of the current season have seen Atlantis’s audience of viewers 18-49 double when seven days of recorded viewing are added in, according to a new Turner Research analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.
Show runner Mallozzi previously noted in his blog that the odds get stacked against a series after five years -- and that the rising Canadian dollar compared to the value of the U.S. dollar has made this and other Vancouver-produced series more expensive to make.
“Both MGM and Sci Fi have been great supporters of the show and, if you go by SG-1’s example, fans can be assured that the end of the series will not be the end of Atlantis,” Mallozzi wrote in a June 29 blog post. “Like SG-1, it will live on in longer-form DVD releases.”
Ark of Truth and Continuum both exceeded MGM’s expectations for home-video sales, Mallozzi said. Continuum, the most recent release, ranked ninth on Video Business magazine’s list of top-selling DVDs for the week ended Aug. 9.