Paramount to mine MTV content

Singing a whole new tune, Paramount Home Entertainment has linked with MTV Networks Music and Logo Enterprises to launch a DVD studio that will leverage network talent to create music-based dramas, comedies, and documentaries.

The DVD studio will draw on four key cable channels under the MTV umbrella: MTV, VH1, CMT, and Logo. It also will distribute films acquired with Paramount and develop original content. The studio will seek to develop soundtracks to capitalize on the music-oriented flavor of the films.

The new studio will be jointly headed by Jeff Yapp, executive vice president MTV Networks Music and Logo Enterprises, and Ellen Pittleman, senior vice president worldwide acquisitions at Paramount Entertainment, which will distribute the films.

The first DVD release under the MTV brand will be Rumble, a sports comedy starring Faizon Love (Animal) and pop star Ciara. The film follows two former rival high school volleyball squads that band together to reclaim a championship trophy; it is scheduled to be released on DVD in May.

The second release, from VH1, will be the 1980s throwback Totally Awesome, written by Chappelle's Show cocreator Neal Brennan and Michael Schur of Saturday Night Live fame. The film, which also marks Brennan's directorial debut, will star Dominique Swain, Mikey Day, Brittany Daniel, Joey Kern, and James Hong and will feature special appearances by comics, including Tracy Morgan.

No release date has been set for Totally Awesome, which just wrapped production.

Other projects will be announced later.

The announcement of the new DVD studio comes just days after Paramount announced the formation of its DVD Premiere department to develop, produce, and release six to eight direct-to-video film projects a year.

Pittleman has been tapped to lead the department, whose first volley of direct-to-video releases includes a Mike Reiss comedy and a sequel to the hit theatrical film Save the Last Dance, the 2001 romantic drama that earned more than $91 million at the box office.

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