CNN Films adds an acquisition unit

CNN Films has acquired rights to "March of the Penguins."
(Bonne Pioche Productions/Alliance De Production Cinematographique)
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CNN is making a further push into the documentary film business with the creation of an acquisition unit.

The cable news channel, which last year launched CNN Films to make and finance documentaries, will now also buy older documentaries for the network through its newly created CNN Films Presents banner.

“March of the Penguins,” which won an Oscar for best documentary, and “The Imposter” are the first purchases of CNN Films Presents.” Both will air on CNN in January. “March of the Penguins” will debut Jan. 2; “The Imposter,” a 2012 documentary about French conman Frédéric Bourdin, will air Jan. 23.


For CNN, the new unit is one more step in the channel’s plans to broaden its programming so it is less reliant on political chat and breaking news. CNN Chief Jeff Zucker has stressed a need for CNN to redefine its approach to news so it is less reliant on breaking stories.

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The unit already hit paydirt with “Blackfish,” a documentary about killer whales in captivity, which delivered strong ratings for CNN in October.

The acquisition unit will look to make several purchases every year and complement the original fare, said Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide.

CNN Films will also have a big presence at the Sundance Film Festival next month as a buyer and a seller. “Ivory Tower,” a documentary about the high cost of college from Andrew Rossi, is in competition, and “Whitey,” about mobster “Whitey” Bulger, will premiere there. CNN Films financed and commissioned both documentaries. “Life Itself,” about the late movie critic Roger Ebert, will also be screened at Sundance as will its new documentary series “Chicagoland” that counts Robert Redford among its executive producers.

Malhotra will be seeking buyers for all three as well as looking to make acquisitions.

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