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Universal creating Syfy film label [Updated]

December 15, 2010 | 10:42 am

Looking to create some corporate synergy and expand its successful TV brand, Universal Pictures is teaming with its sibling cable network, Syfy, to launch a new movie-production unit.

Beginning in 2012, Syfy Films, a joint venture of the two NBC Universal-owned companies, is to produce one to two science fiction, fantasy, supernatural or horror movies a year that will be released by Universal Pictures. Its focus is somewhat similar to Rogue Pictures, the horror, thriller and comedy label that the studio sold to Relativity Media in early 2009.

The endeavor represents that first time Universal has teamed with one of its sister channels to create a film label. The strategy follows one long ago adopted by Paramount Pictures, which partnered with two cable channels owned by its corporate parent, Viacom Inc., to create MTV Films and Nickelodeon Films.

Pictures made by Syfy Films are expected to be relatively inexpensive, with production budgets of between $5 million and $25 million. The label will be overseen by Langley and Syfy executive vice president of original programming Mark Stern, who will hire a production executive to handle day-to-day operations.    

Universal's experience making science fiction pictures outside of Rogue has been limited. In 2005, the studio made "Serenity," based on Joss Whedon's short-lived cult favorite Fox series "Firefly," but it only pleased hard-core science fiction fans and never crossed over to mainstream audiences.

Syfy, which changed its name from Sci-Fi Channel in 2009 in an effort to reach a broader audience, has made more than 100 original movies that have aired on the television network.

The news comes as Comcast Corp. is expected to shortly close a deal to buy controlling interest in NBC Universal. The cable giant considers NBC Universal's cable networks to be the media company's most valuable asset. A change in priorities at the company under new ownership could make these types of collaborations more important for Universal Pictures in the future.

-- Ben Fritz

[This post was updated at 12:52 p.m. with information on expected budgets for Syfy Films projects.]