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Bunim-Murray Productions forms documentary film division

By Christopher Rocchio, 03/22/2007 

The Real Cancun was a box office bust for Bunim-Murray Productions in 2003, but that's not stopping the reality TV production company from trying again.

Bunim-Murray, the production company responsible for reality shows like MTV's The Real World and Road Rules and E!'s The Simple Life, has announced the formation of a new BMP Films documentary division.  The division will be headed by vice president of creative affairs Sasha Alpert, who served as casting director on the aforementioned The Real Cancun.

"When I hired Sasha, she wasn't a reality show casting executive. She was just a really good producer," Jonathan Murray, executive producer and resident for Bunim-Murray Productions, told Daily Variety.  "She has an eye for the subjects that would make for a compelling focus."

Alpert said she thinks the increased popularity of reality programming in recent years has paved the way for documentaries to do well at the box office.

"People are more forgiving now about production values," she told Variety. "And I think we live in such a confessional time, with things like MySpace, that it's all led back to an interest in documentaries."

As part of its announcement of the division's formation, BMP Films also announced its first project -- director Tricia Regan's Autism: The Musical, which is scheduled to premiere at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival in New York beginning April 29.  BMP Film's debut documentary will follow a group of talented children with Autism over the course of six months as they create, prepare and then perform a live musical play on stage.  A percentage of the film's net proceeds will benefit Autism Speaks, whose goal is to change the future for all who struggle with the disorder.

"Autism: The Musical is very special for Bunim-Murray and we are thrilled to roll it out as our premiere project for BMP Films," said Alpert.  "Just 10 years ago, autism was a relatively rare disorder, diagnosed in one out of every 10,000 children.  Today, it impacts one in 150 children.  With the rate of diagnosis, everyone will be affected by it in some way through friends [and] family."

While Autism: The Musical may be BMP Film's first foray into movie-making it is certainly not Bunim-Murray's, as the production company released the The Real Cancun in April 2003 in more than 2,200 theaters.  Despite carrying a $7.5 million production budget, it only grossed slightly more than $3.8 million domestically.  It grossed a total of $5,345,083 worldwide -- a total that still left it well short of the production's cost.

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