'Action Sports' Movies Pushing Rhino Further Away From Its Origins

By ANDY FIXMER
Staff Reporter

Rhino, the Burbank-based unit of Warner Strategic Marketing, has formed a division to produce films of "youth and action sports" laced with music from Warner recording artists.

The division, Rhino Transport, will develop and distribute skateboarding, BMX, motocross, surfing, snow sports and lifestyle entertainment movies. It will connect the producers of those films with Warner's music catalog and distribution channels, according to a company press release.

The move edges Rhino further away from its roots as an eccentric record label famous for its boxed set collections and more toward mainstream pop culture ventures, which has been a stated goal of Warner Strategic Marketing President Scott Pascucci.

Pascucci did not return calls.

"They are looking for a new crowd," said Lhtose Merriam, an outside publicist working for Warner Strategic Marketing. "A lot of their new music is this crossover music that's appealing to a younger audience."

She said Pascucci and John Beung, senior vice president of WSM, became interested in producing action sports videos when they saw their kids watching them at home.

The move by Rhino, a unit of AOL Time Warner Inc., follows on the recent success of other mainstream media companies delving into what has up until recently been an underground or alternative endeavor, illustrated by Sony Pictures Classic's 2001 release of "Dogtown and Z-Boys."

The first film in development under the Transport imprimatur is "Flipped Out," which is set to be released in stores in August. The movie follows the exploits of freestyle motocross riders Carey Hart, Mike Metzger and Caleb Wyatt.

"They came in and said 'Hey, we're part of this giant corporation and we don't know anything about motocross but we want to make great videos,'" said Alex Thompson, editor-in-chief of freestylemtx.com, a motocross Web site.

Thompson appears in "Flipped Out."

"There are a lot of people out there who are super hungry to see these sports and these stars," she said.

In recent months, Warner's presence has been felt more keenly, with many former executive shifted to positions at Warner Music Group's marketing division.

The changes come as the mission of Rhino appears to have broadened. Instead of focusing on buying up old catalogs and reissuing them in collector's editions the core of what made its reputation after its 1973 founding the company has increasingly settled into a routine of repackaging Warner artists.

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