Sky Getting Back Into Movie Business

UPDATE: The pay-TV giant wants to hear pitches for movies and two-part miniseries as it moves back into original feature production. Sky wants to co-produce three big event TV movies each year. The problem, it says, will be finding UK projects of sufficient scale and quality – a problem which Warner Bros also faces developing British blockbusters. Brit producers tend to think small-scale and intimate. “We’re looking for big exclusive events that can add value to the movie subscription,” Ian Lewis, director of Sky Movies tells me. “A lot of the projects we’ve sifted already were easy to turn down.

“We’re looking for the kinds of stories, cast and production values that we would see on the movie channels.”

Sky Movies HD has announced the TV giant’s first foray back into original feature production since the late 90s. Neverland is a Peter Pan origin story starring Rhys Ifans as the young Captain Hook, Anna Friel as his rival Captain Bonny and Bob Hoskins reprising his role as Smee from Spielberg’s Hook. Charlie Rowe (Never Let Me Go) will star as Peter Pan. Nick Willing, who helmed Tin Man for Syfy in the US, is directing. Syfy is co-funding Neverland with Sky. Irish indie Parallel Films is the producer. RHI Entertainment is distributing internationally. Filming starts next week on location in Genoa, Italy and then move on to Dublin.

Most movies only arrive at Sky after they have already been released in cinemas and on DVD. This means customers have already had 9-12 months to see them.

Elizabeth Murdoch first pushed Sky into making features back in the late 90s. The results were pretty undistinguished and Sky Pictures foundered. Indie producers rowed with Sky when it tried to release features simultaneously on TV and in the cinema. This time around, Sky Movies will premiere features and miniseries. Neverland is slated to air on Sky Movies Premiere HD in 2011.

No sooner does BBC director general Mark Thompson call for Sky to invest more in British original production than the £100 million it already does, than the pay-TV giant makes this announcement. The timing is uncanny.

General entertainment channel Sky One has been making inroads into original production, commissioning Terry Pratchett TV specials, the Martina Cole series The Take and action show Strike Back, which has just been picked up for a second series.

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