Series finale is news to them

TV: Levinson and Co. say city's jumping the gun with `Homicide' movie announcement.

May 26, 1999|By Edward Gunts and David Zurawik | Edward Gunts and David Zurawik,SUN STAFF

At a housing department news conference yesterday, Baltimore City officials announced that the cast and crew of "Homicide: Life on the Street" may be returning to Baltimore to make a two-hour series finale movie.

But don't stop the wake.

Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana, the producers who own the rights to the recently canceled TV drama and whose involvement is crucial for any such film to be made, said they had not heard anything about it.

"There is no `Homicide' film. Barry Levinson knows nothing about it," Simon Hall, Levinson's spokesman in California, said yesterday.

Fontana said through a spokesman in New York that he "hasn't got a clue" as to what the city officials were talking about and that he has "not been in contact with anyone about a `Homicide' movie."

Joanna Giddon, a spokeswoman for NBC, which also owns rights to the show, said she knew nothing about a telemovie of "Homicide." As of late yesterday, she said she was unable to find anyone at NBC programming who had any information about such a film.

Daniel P. Henson III, city housing commissioner, and Rose Greene, executive secretary of the Baltimore Film Commission, characterized the film as a near-certainty during a morning news conference on the future of Recreation Pier, the Fells Point soundstage used by "Homicide."

But later in the day, informed that Levinson and Fontana had denied knowing anything about such a deal, Greene acknowledged that the movie had hurdles to overcome. Still, she said she was optimistic it would happen.

The two-hour movie would attempt to provide closure for the series, which was filmed in Baltimore for seven seasons and based on a book by former Sun reporter David Simon, "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets." The final show, which aired Friday, was written and filmed before NBC announced that it would not renew the series for next year.

Such a film would be one of several projects that might use the city-owned Recreation Pier, which has served as the main production facility for "Homicide."

Because the Rec Pier has proven to be a good place for the "Homicide" crew to work and the Fells Point community has been "so accepting" of filmmaking activity, said Henson at the news conference, the housing department will continue to make the building on Thames Street available for other film projects. He suggested that it could become an "incubator" for television pilots and other productions.

Greene said she did not know when filming on a "Homicide" movie might begin or when the program might be broadcast. She noted that an NBC entity called Northern Entertainment has a lease to use the Rec Pier until the end of the year and said it would be less expensive for NBC to use the Rec Pier while the "Homicide" sets are still in place.

In addition, she and Henson said, possibilities for use of the Rec Pier include a six-hour HBO mini-series based on "The Corner," a 1997 account of addicts' lives by Simon and Edward Burns, and another HBO special.

Greene said the producers of "Homicide" invested more than $1 million over the years to improve the Rec Pier, including the addition of a new roof and exterior lighting and upgrading of plumbing and mechanical systems.

Greene said an episode of a television series such as "Homicide" typically costs $800,000 to $1 million a week to produce and estimated that a two-hour movie could require four to six weeks filming time. The commission estimates that the total economic impact on the region is 2.5 times the actual dollars spent on production.

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