The creation of CNN Films is consistent with parent company Time Warner’s stated plan to experiment with new strategies to rejuvenate the news network’s flagging prime time ratings. CNN says that it will acquire and commission original feature-length documentaries that will “examine an array of political, social, and economic subject matters.” Documentaries will premiere in prime time, but also may show up in theaters and film festivals. The network will help to promote them by arranging interviews, discussions, and debates about the documentary subjects in additional programs to run on its multiple networks and Web sites. CNN Films has development deals with directors Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer) and Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times). It also has acquired Girl Rising, a Meryl Streep-narrated documentary about girls overcoming tough odds to achieve their dreams. It will air in spring 2013.

Here’s the release:

CNN, the worldwide leader in news, today announced the creation of CNN Films to secure feature-length documentaries for air on CNN and CNN International, alongside theatrical distribution. The move is part of a wider strategy to acquire original non-fiction content to complement CNN’s award-winning news programs; it was announced by CNN Worldwide Managing Editor Mark Whitaker.

“Girl Rising,” the first documentary acquired by CNN Films, will air in spring 2013. The film, which inspired a global action campaign to promote girls’ education called 10×10, tells the extraordinary stories of several girls from around the globe, fighting to overcome impossible odds to realize their dreams. The film includes voice performances by Academy Award Winner Meryl Streep, Academy Award Nominee Anne Hathaway, Kerry Washington, and Selena Gomez. “Girl Rising” is directed by Academy Award Nominee Richard E. Robbins (“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”) and executive produced by Tom Yellin and Holly Gordon of the Documentary Group and Paul G. Allen of Vulcan Productions.

CNN Films has also signed development deals with Academy Award Winning Director and Producer Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side,” “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” and “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer”) and Director Andrew Rossi (“Page One: Inside the New York Times”). Both will develop original documentaries to air on CNN.

“CNN Films will bring distinguished, thought-provoking documentary programming to our global audiences on all our television, online and mobile platforms,” said Whitaker. “We want these documentaries to tell compelling stories and stimulate important discussions across CNN’s other programs and websites.”

The original feature-length documentaries will examine an array of political, social, and economic subject matters. The films will premiere in primetime and will re-air in order to increase exposure. Surrounding the premiere of each documentary, acclaimed CNN programs will run dedicated programming that sheds light on the topics and issues discussed in each film. In-depth interviews, expert commentary, roundtable discussions, debates, and behind-the-scenes footage will be featured across all of CNN’s broadcast and online platforms.

Amy Entelis, senior vice president of talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, and Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide, will oversee the acquisition strategy of documentaries under the CNN Films banner. Malhotra will manage the day-to-day operation of CNN Films, and work directly with filmmakers to develop original projects.

CNN Films also plans to bring the documentaries beyond the small screen by developing strategic partnerships to leverage distribution opportunities at film festivals and in theaters.

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