The classic horror remake, billed by Comcast Corp's NBC as a
two-part "miniseries event" starting Sunday, marks the latest TV
show to lure film talent and pick up the slack as Hollywood
gravitates to big-budget blockbusters or microbudget films.
Previously adapted by Roman Polanski in a 1968 film starring Mia
Farrow, "Rosemary's Baby" taps film actress Zoe Saldana for the
modern Rosemary Woodhouse in her first leading TV role.
After suffering a miscarriage, Rosemary and husband Guy move to
Paris for a fresh start and befriend a mysterious wealthy couple
who become their benefactors. As Rosemary becomes pregnant
again, she suffers frightening hallucinations and symptoms as
she realizes dark forces might be at play.
NBC's decision to air a four-hour adaptation of "Rosemary's
Baby" and Saldana's move to network TV highlights the potential
for film talent to cash in on television's rising clout.
Other recent examples include Matthew McConaughey and Woody
Harrelson teaming up on gritty HBO series "True Detective," and
actor-director Billy Bob Thornton on FX's "Fargo" series.
"Both networks and cable stations are willing to take risks
right now and they're a great incubator and great home for
people who just want to get their material out there," said
David Stern, executive producer of NBC's "Rosemary's Baby."
By marketing the show as an "event," NBC hopes to entice viewers
to watch live, something that advertisers covet as viewing
habits shift towards delayed viewing through digital video
recorders (DVR) where viewers can skip commercials.
"We're getting unbelievable actors and filmmakers to do these
things, so it's as close as we can come to a theater-like
experience, but I think people really are in the place where
they want that in the luxury of their own home," Stern said.
'THERE WAS NO PLACE FOR ME'
Talent from the film world moved to TV when studios began to
focus on sequels to hit films or stories based on books or
characters already familiar to audiences, said film and TV
producer Lynda Obst.
The shift accelerated around 2008 as DVD sales dropped and
studios picked films drawing overseas ticket sales, she said.
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Oscar-winning Thornton said when he began his film career in the
1980s, the idea of doing television was "like his career is over,"
and his place in the film industry was in movies with budgets of $20
million to $25 million, which Hollywood now struggles to finance.
"There was no place for me," he said. "All of a sudden the bottom
fell out of that world, so somebody had the great idea, which is
'Let's do 10-hour independent films on television.'"
Now the actor has moved to Fox TV's sister channel FX to lead the
10-part limited series "Fargo," made on a budget between $10 million
and $20 million, which has garnered positive reviews, and 2.7
million watched the premiere live.
This year, Time Warner Inc's premium cable channel HBO debuted the
anthology series format with "True Detective," where each season
will feature a new cast and storyline.
The first eight-part season was made for an estimated $3 million to
$4 million per episode according to senior analyst Tony Wible at
Janney Capital Markets.
The show notched 11.9 million viewers per episode, the highest
ratings for the first season of an HBO original series, and not only
won critical acclaim for its stars, but also for emerging director
Cary Fukunaga, who will next direct Stephen King's horror novel "It"
into a film.
Fukunaga shows how filmmakers can display their story-telling
talents over a longer period of time on TV and possibly parlay that
into a topline, big budget Hollywood gig.
But for Thornton, the future of films lies in television and online
streaming platforms such as Netflix.
"Television has such a cachet now," he said. "They've got all these
terrific actors and writers; in other words it's like Mighty Mouse,
'Here I come to save the day.' That's what TV is doing."
(Additional reporting by Eric Kelsey and Lisa Richwine; Editing by
Mary Milliken and Cynthia Osterman)
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