Focusing its efforts on TV production, direct-to-video features, Internet content and property licensing, Sony Pictures Family Entertainment has quietly scrapped its development plans for theatrical feature films.
The highly successful Sony unit, headed by Sander Schwartz, has many popular animated series on network and in syndication, currently led by Men in Black and Jackie Chan Adventures. Its proposed theatrical projects had included H.R. Pufnstuf with Krofft Entertainment and a remake of Columbia Pictures’ 1966 Hayley Mills movie The Trouble with Angels. No decision has been made on the future fate of these big-screen properties.
Sony has had theatrical family film success, most recently with Stuart Little, which was nurtured through Columbia Pictures’ main feature development pipeline. A sequel is currently in production.
‘There was a redundancy in development effort,’ said a Sony spokesperson. ‘We’ll continue to do family films. It’ll all be rolled under the Columbia banner.’
In addition to Men in Black and Jackie Chan, Sony currently has new episodes of Action Man, Starship Troopers and Dragon Tales on broadcast, with 40 episodes of Heavy Gear in production and 13 episodes Harold and the Purple Crayon in pre-production for 2001 airdates.
Though dropping its theatrical slate, SPFE is currently producing its first movie: A new Starship Troopers feature-length DVD for release through Columbia TriStar Home Video. ‘Fan mail has shown a demand for a cutting edge, action-packed exclusive DVD release,’ says David Palmer, SPFE’s VP of marketing.
Sony’s Family Entertainment group has found great success at a time when other U.S. independent animation studios are struggling. ‘We essentially own and control all of our brands, which is very important to the growth and long-term success of all of our properties,’ says Palmer.
Palmer notes that although his department will lose its big-screen window, it’s loaded up with plenty of other opportunities. ‘We are going to further expand our merchandising, licensing and international marketing efforts, as well as our presence on the web,’ he points out. ‘In September, we did our first live web chat with Jackie Chan in support of Jackie Chan Adventures, and we are developing series and new content for the Internet. We have more than enough projects to keep us very busy.’