Diversified holding company Ballantyne Strong has launched Strong Studios, a new wing of its entertainment division, with two scripted series already in the works for 2022.
Supernatural horror outing Safehaven and Michael Rapaport dramedy Flagrant have been greenlit by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment’s Screen Media subsidiary, which will distribute them. The company’s ad-supported streaming services, Crackle, Popcornflix and Chicken Soup for the Soul have premiere rights.
Cementing the connection between Strong and Chicken Soup for the Soul is David Ozer, who has been appointed president of Strong Studios. Ozer formerly was CEO of Landmark Studio Group, a division of Chicken Soup. In part because of the familiar executive relationship, the companies said “many additional collaborations are expected” down the line.
Based in New York, Strong Studios will develop and produce original film and TV projects as well as acquiring distribution rights to third-party productions. Along with investments in forest management, lumber production, reinsurance and other non-entertainment areas, Ballantyne Strong has stakes in cinema equipment, theme park products and services and digital mobile advertising.
Safehaven is a supernatural horror series based on a graphic novel. Per the official logline, it is about a female comic book artist whose drawings come alive to haunt her. The series is produced by James Seale, Kevin Duncan and Michael Bay’s 451 Media. Production is anticipated to begin later this year in Canada.
Flagrant is an original dramedy starring and executive produced by actor and comedian Michael Rapaport. Screenwriter Peter Hoare and actor, broadcaster, stand-up comedian, and writer Pete Correale are co-writers and showrunners. Production is anticipated to begin in the middle of this year.
Some projects shepherded by Ozer at Landmark Studio Group will migrate to Strong Studios. Among them are Shadows in the Vineyard, starring Judith Light and Noah Wyle; the drama series, Heartbeat, co-created by legendary DJ couple Kiss and M.O.S.; and horror series MidNightMares.
“The launch of Strong Studios is a natural but also potentially transformative next step for our entertainment business,” Ballantyne Strong CEO Mark Roberson said. “We plan to employ a disciplined and conservative approach to development of new projects, utilizing co-production and pre-licensing to limit financial exposure while building a content library with high potential for commercial success. We welcome David and his team and look forward to working with them to grow the business into a leading media studio with top original content.”
Ozer said that with “the growing worldwide demand for content and the acceleration of new streaming services, the environment is ripe for Strong Studios to thrive.” With the initial commitment from Chicken Soup for the Soul, he added, “we are able to hit the ground running with two series ready to head into production, while we begin developing our own pipeline of original IP.”
From 2018 until earlier this year, Ozer led Landmark Studio Group, overseeing production and development of a wide-ranging slate, which included Safehaven and Flagrant. The roster included Willy’s Wonderland, starring Nicolas Cage, and Trigger Point, directed by Brad Turner and starring Barry Pepper.
Prior to Landmark, Ozer was founding president of IDW Entertainment, steering the independent studio’s expansion. He oversaw the development and production of three seasons of Wynonna Earp for Syfy, and two seasons of Dirk Gently for BBC America. He also spearheaded development of Locke & Key and V-Wars for Netflix.
Ozer previously held senior exec posts at Starz, RHI Entertainment, Sonar, DIC Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television.
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