Walden and Hallmark team up for family-friendly Fridays

Published: Thursday, March 14 2013 5:50 p.m. MDT

Bindi Irwin stars as Nim in "Return to Nim's Island."

Vince Valitutti

When the Walden Family Theater series debuts Friday night on Hallmark Channel, it’s rather fitting that the first programming will be a movie with the word “return” prominently included in its title.

Because with the premier of the made-for-TV “Return to Nim’s Island,” Walden Media and Hallmark Channel won’t just be bringing young Nim back to her old stomping grounds she first traversed in the 2008 theatrical release “Nim’s Island,” which grossed $100 million in worldwide box office sales. In a broader sense, Walden and Hallmark will also be launching Walden Family Theater, the initiative they believe can return prime-time television to a bygone era of family friendliness — a time when the entire family could watch high-quality TV together without having to worry about encountering embarrassing or inappropriate content.

“Growing up I always loved ‘The Wonderful World of Disney,’” said Walden Media president Micheal Flaherty, who is a member of the Deseret News Editorial Advisory Board. “So I wanted to see if there was a way for us to do something where families knew if they got together every Friday night, they could see a great film. That was the impetus, and then we met the awesome people at Hallmark who wanted to do the same thing.”

In a separate conversation, Hallmark Channel CEO and president Bill Abbott conveyed similar sentiments.

“Dating back to the days of TGIF, which was on ABC many years ago, Friday night is really a key viewing night for families,” Abbott told the Deseret News. “Partnering with Walden Media presents a great opportunity for us to really work to recreate that (and) have high-quality content that all members of the family can watch together.”

Family value fare

Throughout the rest of the year, Walden Family Theater will air approximately 30 times on Friday nights. Following “Return to Nim’s Island,” Walden Media will contribute five additional new, feature-length films during 2013. The next original production will be “Space Warriors,” starring Dermot Mulroney and Danny Glover.

During the episodes of Walden Family Theater when an original Walden Media movie isn’t airing, Hallmark Channel will show a family-friendly film for which it owns licensing rights.

But the Walden Family Theater partnership isn’t limited to just Hallmark and Walden. Indeed, its full name is “Wal-Mart and P&G Present Walden Family Theater.”

“I think that one of the under-the-radar elements of this deal,” Abbott said, “is how unique it is because it is not only involving four very, very strong partners that bring different assets to the table in their own way — but also in a space that doesn’t have a lot of competition and is something that’s very unique.”

In concert with Walden Media, Wal-Mart created a unique TV-to-DVD distribution model for Walden Family Theater: After an original movie like “Return to Nim’s Island” premieres on a Friday night, the film’s DVDs will go on sale in Wal-Mart stores the following Tuesday.

“Wal-Mart is just so innovative,” Flaherty said. “We really like the idea of building this new business model with them, so while the film is still fresh in the audience’s mind and while we’re advertising it, it (becomes) available for people to get right away.”

Procter & Gamble finds Walden Family Theater to be an attractive partnership option because the programming not only targets families but also offers unique product-placement opportunities.

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