United Artists Cable gives local talent a stage


Lights! Camera! Action!

The new production facilities of United Artists in Baltimore opens for business today, more than a year and $2.5 million after the project was begun by the city's sole cable operator.

The state-of-the-art facility at the company's Kirk Avenue headquarters features a soundproof, full-service television production studio, post-production and editing rooms and a 16-channel audio system.

And, oh yes, there's also a dressing room for stars and would-be stars of the home-grown productions that will be filmed there, known within the cable industry as "local origination programming."

The name refers to any show produced at the local level -- be it by individuals, civic groups, government or commercial outfits.

Unlike public access television -- a la "Wayne's World" -- local origination programming has a price attached to it.

The new United Artists studio can be rented for a few minutes or a few days.

A half-hour stint in United's production facility starts at about $250. The same block of time at a network site would cost a minimum of $1,200, according to Marilyn Harris-Davis, a spokeswoman for United Artists in Baltimore.

Those fees do not include the cost of renting equipment and production crews.

Still, United considers its new facility a good bargain, given that it's the only place in the city where people can test out their ideas for new shows, Ms. Harris-Davis said.

"Baltimore's been waiting for this for an awfully long time," Ms. Harris-Davis said.

"It provides a wonderful opportunity for independent producers to get some visibility for their work at a reasonable cost."

United has a mobile production unit -- a bus outfitted with editing and production equipment -- that's been used for years to produce local origination programming.

Those local shows are aired on Channel 41 and include a weekly religious program, a restaurant review show and one that features news of interest to Baltimore's Polish community.

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