New Line Television is rushing to make a deal to save upstart weekly hour “The Lost World” from an abrupt cancellation, according to executives with knowledge of the situation.
New Line’s challenge proves the importance of international financing in the current marketplace. The studio has already been forced in the past year to drop two series that had been declared a “firm go”: “Hard Knox” and “Matthew Blackheart: Monster Smasher.”
“The Lost World” has been enjoying a successful syndicated run throughout the country, earning higher ratings this year than in its debut season in 1999. However, the bankruptcy of the Telescene Film Group in Montreal, one of the backers of the show, along with the failure to clear countries such as France, has forced New Line to scramble to make up the missing greenbacks.
The bank that picked up the Telescene debt has had numerous meetings in the past two months with potential investors to carry the international burden.
One insider at the studio confirmed that the distributor will cut back the series’ budget from $950,000 to $650,000 per episode in an attempt to lure investors. However, another company insider insisted that the budget was only being cut to $800,000 per episode. In addition, pieces of the set have been sold off to trim the fat from the bottom line.
As with the two series New Line has canceled, “The Lost World” has been given a “firm go.” It is currently cleared in about 90 percent of the country for a third season. The series most recently earned a 2.0 household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research.
A New Line spokesperson said recently that the company is proceeding with the show as planned and fully expects the series to air this fall. However, sources say that unless an investor can be found, the series would not be able to break even financially and would be forced to shut down production.
The studio could make a final decision about the show this week, sources said.
Last month, the company opted not to go forward with its syndie actioner “Hard Knox,” featuring Lee Majors and Thomas Calabro, although the show was cleared on TV stations in more than 90 percent of the country for a fall premiere. The studio cited difficulty securing international funding as the reason for pulling the plug.
The year before, the company had similar troubles with “Matthew Blackheart” after clearing that series in almost 70 percent of the country. The show received good reviews from Katz Television and other companies that represent hundreds of TV stations. Despite the strong word from the station reps, however, New Line couldn’t find TV stations in the country’s top markets, New York and Los Angeles, to place “Smasher” in high-visibility time periods. So New Line instead worked out a deal with the Sci-Fi Channel, which agreed to pay about one-third of the $900,000-an-hour production cost.
Telescene and New Line were under contract to shoulder the rest of the budget while Sci Fi targeted the series for a first-quarter 2001 start, until Telescene went bankrupt during the first week in December.
Should “The Lost World” not make it back to the airwaves, the company would continue to play the syndication game using its movie package, featuring the likes of “Austin Powers” as well as the upcoming “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
New Line executives could not be reached for comment.