WWE Films Target Family Fare, Aim For Wider Audience

Patricia ClarksonWorld Wrestling Entertainment is taking a new tack with its film studio, looking to produce family-friendly fare with familiar Hollywood talent.

WWE Studios has produced seven films since 2002, headlined by its roster of characters, in the action and horror genres, some with R ratings.

But this year's upcoming "Brother's Keeper" (working title) will serve as a new blueprint for a PG or PG-13 film. Patricia Clarkson and Danny Glover will star in the drama about estranged brothers -- with WWE personality John Cena taking on more of a supporting role.

The film will be the first of nine scheduled for release through 2012 that illustrate WWE's creative shift. Comedies, dramas and supernatural-thrillers with a family-friendly bent will be part of the lineup.

The comedy "Knucklehead" will follow "Keeper" in the fall with Dennis Farina and Wendie Malik, along with WWE personality Big Show.

WWE will market the new slate, with Samuel Goldwyn Films serving as U.S. distributor.

"Trying to reach a wider, more accessible audience," is how Mike Pavone, head of WWE Studios, described the strategy shift. Production budgets for the films are about $6.5 million, but it only costs WWE about $5 million, since they are shot in New Orleans, which is offering tax breaks.

Moving WWE characters into lesser roles could help bring wider appeal if it means more screen time for bigger stars. But Pavone added that scheduling the wrestlers for shoots can be tough, given their schedules to perform in other WWE programming.

Last year, WWE produced only one theatrical release: "12 Rounds." WWE has also made straight-to-DVD films. WWE has TV programming on several networks: USA, Syfy, MyNetworkTV and WGN America.

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