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Universal Music Group Revives Polygram Label for Film and TV Production

Variety logo Variety 2/12/2017 Cynthia Littleton
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Universal Music Group is reviving the Polygram Entertainment banner as the music giant seeks to expand its film and TV production activity.

UMG said Saturday that Polygram will be tasked with producing movies and TV programs and financing documentaries, with an emphasis on projects tied to artists connected to UMG labels. The first project from the imprint will be a documentary on Motown Records, one of the iconic music labels in the UMG vault. Also in the works is “Mystify,” a docu about the life of Michael Hutchence the late singer of INXS.

David Blackman, who was recruited to head UMG’s newly formed film and TV unit in January, will oversee the Santa Monica-based Polygram operation, reporting to UMG exec VP Michele Anthony and Universal Music Publishing Group chairman-CEO Jody Gerson.

“Polygram will play an important role in furthering UMG’s global strategy to produce the very best in audio-visual storytelling and provide our artists with an important medium for their expression and creativity,” Anthony said. “Music is essential to film and television – and the stories surrounding our artists and their music provide compelling narratives for audiences around the world.”

“The Story of Motown” will be spearheaded by Steve Barnett, chairman-CEO of Capitol Music Group. The project is billed as the first Motown doc to have the participation of label founder Berry Gordy, who will make material from his personal archive available for the first time. Polygram, Motown, Ghost Pictures and Fulwell 73 (the production banner run by James Corden and “Late Late Show” exec producer Ben Winston) are producing.

“Mystify” is a co-production of Polygram, Surfing Cowboys, Ghost Pictures and Passion Pictures. Richard Lowenstein is on board to direct; John Battsek is producing.

The Polygram Entertainment initiative was unveiled by UMG chief Lucian Grainge and the group’s Grammy Showcase event at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles.

UMG has been edging into the documentary arena for the past few years, having served as a producer of the 2015 Amy Winehouse documentary “Amy” and HBO’s “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.”

(Pictured: Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson at the London premiere of “Motown the Musical” in 2016)

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