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Do You Love Stand By Me? Stephen King Reminds Fans That They Have Norman Lear To Thank

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This past week, writer/director Edgar Wright shared an exciting update about his remake of The Running Man, and director Rob Reiner’s Misery celebrated its 33rd anniversary – but those aren’t the only developments we’ve learned about from the world of Stephen King. There’s plenty of material left to cover in this new edition of The King Beat – including the author paying tribute to Norman Lear, big news about King’s beloved Dollar Babies program, and an exciting first look at the upcoming Stephen King adaptation Welcome To Derry.

Without further ado, let’s first look at Stephen King’s remembrance of Norman Lear and how the beloved writer saved Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

After Norman Lear’s Passing, Stephen King Recalls How The Legendary Filmmaker Saved Stand By Me

Based on Stephen King’s novella “The Body,” Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me is remembered as not just one of the best Stephen King movies, or even one of the best movies of the 1980s, but one of the best movies of all time. It’s a beautiful and timeless coming-of-age classic that is beloved by multiple generations. Its existence is a boon to the legacy of cinema as the whole – and you may not know that if it weren’t for the influential support of the legendary Norman Lear, it never would have been made.

Lear passed away this week at the age of 101, and in reflecting on the man’s life and career following the news on Wednesday, Stephen King recalled on his personal Twitter page that Stand By Me would not exist if it were not for the All In The Family creator. When the movie was mere days away from starting production, Columbia Pictures considered shutting the whole thing down, but it was Lear who stopped that from happening.

As reported in a 1986 article from the Chicago Tribune, Stand By Me was originally financed and given the greenlight by Embassy Pictures (which was owned by Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio), but everything changed when the production shingle was purchased by The Coca-Cola Company – which owned Columbia Pictures at the time. Despite the fact that principal photography was about to begin in Oregon, Guy McElwaine, the head of production at Columbia, wanted to outright cancel the film. Martin Shafer, who had been the head of Embassy Pictures, made a desperate move to try and save the project, and he ended up convincing Norman Lear (who has previously been the owner of Embassy) to personally finance the feature.

Screenwriter Raynold Gideon recalled that Lear took a massive gamble being involved with Stand By Me, but he loved the script and had an established relationship with Rob Reiner thanks to their time collaborating on All In The Family. Said Gideon,

[T]hank God, Norman Lear said he would personally finance the $8 million budget from his own pocket. He believed that much in the script and Rob Reiner who had co-starred for him all those years in All In The Family. The amazing thing is that Norman was willing to gamble $8 million on a picture that didn`t even have a distribution deal with a major studio. We assured each other we`d find a distributor when the movie was completed.

Ironically, it was Columbia Pictures that ended up distributing the film, as Guy McElwaine was convinced to screen it at home with his family, and “his kids were crazy about it.” According to Raynold Gideon, the executive ended up calling Norman Lear personally to congratulate him.

The rest is history – and Constant Readers and cinephiles will forever be in debt to Lear because of it.

Constant Readers have a while to wait before we get to see the debut of Welcome To Derry – the upcoming streaming series that is being made as a prequel to Andy Muschietti’s IT and IT Chapter Two. The developing Max exclusive was originally going to premiere in time for Halloween 2024, and production even began amid the WGA strike back in May, but it was reported in November that the show is now targeting autumn in 2025.

That means that Welcome To Derry’s arrival is still about two years away… but that hasn’t stopped Max from teasing Stephen King fans with a cool first look.

With 2023 coming to an end, Max has released a preview video for their upcoming slate called “The One To Watch In 2024” (featured above), and despite the title, the reel features footage from the streaming service’s 2025 programming. This includes new seasons of shows like The Last Of Us, Euphoria, and The White Lotus… but obviously this is The King Beat, so I’m going to focus on what’s featured from Welcome To Derry: From The World Of IT.

The new show reportedly takes place in the 1960s, and the footage immediately has it sharing a common visual with the 1989-set IT Chapter One: the image of kids riding around Derry, Maine on bicycles. There is also a nice collection of scared faces, a burnt arm reaching out from a lake and grabbing a kid, and one of Pennywise’s red balloons floating through a tree. There is no sight of the titular monster itself, and there is still no word regarding whether or not Bill Skarsgård will be reprising the role.

Fans can spot Jovan Adepo in the Welcome To Derry footage (this is his second Stephen King adaptation after 2020’s The Stand), and he is joined in the cast by Taylour Paige, James Remar, Chris Chalk, Stephen Rider, and Madeleine Stowe. Hopefully we won’t have to wait until next December for a more in-depth look at the horrors that the show will be bringing to the small screen.

Stephen King in Sons of Anarchy

(Image credit: FX)

Stephen King’s Dollar Babies Program Has Come To An End

The Dollar Baby program is a special part of Stephen King’s legacy. While movie studios and television networks have regularly purchased the rights to the author’s novels, novellas and short stories, he has long kept a select group of titles aside for use by up-and-coming filmmakers looking to cut their teeth in the art form by adapting King’s work. With certain stipulations attached, they could adapt certain shorts for the price of one dollar.

It’s a terrific program – but as of this past week, it is no longer a thing.

This past Tuesday, writer and Stephen King scholar Bev Vincent posted a surprising screenshot to his personal Twitter page announcing that “The Dollar Baby Program has been disbanded as of December 2023.” The author’s official website, StephenKing.com, has a longer version of the message with a note about existing contracts:

The Dollar Baby Program was disbanded in December 2023. Contracts issued before December 2023 will be honored and will remain approved for one year from their instantiation, as per the terms of their contract. There will be no Dollar Baby extensions after December 1st, 2023.

Neither Bev Vincent’s Tweet nor the website provides an explanation as to why the Dollar Baby Program is concluding – and it spurred a fervent reaction from Constant Readers. About 11 hours after Vincent’s post, Stephen King personally addressed the situation, and he revealed that Margaret Morehouse (whom he refers to as “Margaret, the Mistress of Dollar Babies”) is retiring. Rather than a replacement being named, the program is ending along with her tenure.

See more

Many of the Dollar Baby films that have been produced are not available to watch because one of the aforementioned stipulations of the program is that the finished adaptation cannot be commercially exhibited without direct permission. Still, there are some standout short films that were made – with the standout work in the legacy being 1983’s The Woman In The Room, which was made by a young Frank Darabont (who later went on to make The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist).

The existence of the Dollar Babies has long been celebrated by Stephen King fans – inspiring film festivals and a comprehensive book from author Anthony Northrup that was published in 2021. It’s a shame that the program is coming to an end, but it will long be remembered as a special way that King contributed to the creative community.

Stephen King cameo in Kingdom Hospital

(Image credit: ABC)

Recommendation Of The Week: “The Woman In The Room”

With the Dollar Baby program ending, it only feels right to have my recommendation of the week be the aforementioned “The Woman In The Room.” The opportunity for you to personally adapt it for an exceptionally low price no longer exists, but you can still appreciate it as a powerful piece of writing that comes from a painful emotional place.

First published in the 1978 omnibus Night Shift, the Stephen King short story centers on a young man named Johnny whose mother is terminally ill and suffering. As he spends time with her in her hospital room, he considers ending her life as an act of euthanasia. It’s short, but it’s a story that hits like a punch in the gut and isn’t easy to shake – particularly if you’ve ever been in a similar situation with a loved one.

That does it for this edition of The King Beat, but be sure to head back here to CinemaBlend every Thursday for my latest column – and while you wait, you can check out my series Adapting Stephen King, chronicling the full history of Stephen King films and television shows.




This past week, writer/director Edgar Wright shared an exciting update about his remake of The Running Man, and director Rob Reiner’s Misery celebrated its 33rd anniversary – but those aren’t the only developments we’ve learned about from the world of Stephen King. There’s plenty of material left to cover in this new edition of The King Beat – including the author paying tribute to Norman Lear, big news about King’s beloved Dollar Babies program, and an exciting first look at the upcoming Stephen King adaptation Welcome To Derry.

Without further ado, let’s first look at Stephen King’s remembrance of Norman Lear and how the beloved writer saved Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me.

Gordie crying while Chris comforts him.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

After Norman Lear’s Passing, Stephen King Recalls How The Legendary Filmmaker Saved Stand By Me

Based on Stephen King’s novella “The Body,” Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me is remembered as not just one of the best Stephen King movies, or even one of the best movies of the 1980s, but one of the best movies of all time. It’s a beautiful and timeless coming-of-age classic that is beloved by multiple generations. Its existence is a boon to the legacy of cinema as the whole – and you may not know that if it weren’t for the influential support of the legendary Norman Lear, it never would have been made.

Lear passed away this week at the age of 101, and in reflecting on the man’s life and career following the news on Wednesday, Stephen King recalled on his personal Twitter page that Stand By Me would not exist if it were not for the All In The Family creator. When the movie was mere days away from starting production, Columbia Pictures considered shutting the whole thing down, but it was Lear who stopped that from happening.

As reported in a 1986 article from the Chicago Tribune, Stand By Me was originally financed and given the greenlight by Embassy Pictures (which was owned by Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio), but everything changed when the production shingle was purchased by The Coca-Cola Company – which owned Columbia Pictures at the time. Despite the fact that principal photography was about to begin in Oregon, Guy McElwaine, the head of production at Columbia, wanted to outright cancel the film. Martin Shafer, who had been the head of Embassy Pictures, made a desperate move to try and save the project, and he ended up convincing Norman Lear (who has previously been the owner of Embassy) to personally finance the feature.

Screenwriter Raynold Gideon recalled that Lear took a massive gamble being involved with Stand By Me, but he loved the script and had an established relationship with Rob Reiner thanks to their time collaborating on All In The Family. Said Gideon,

[T]hank God, Norman Lear said he would personally finance the $8 million budget from his own pocket. He believed that much in the script and Rob Reiner who had co-starred for him all those years in All In The Family. The amazing thing is that Norman was willing to gamble $8 million on a picture that didn`t even have a distribution deal with a major studio. We assured each other we`d find a distributor when the movie was completed.

Ironically, it was Columbia Pictures that ended up distributing the film, as Guy McElwaine was convinced to screen it at home with his family, and “his kids were crazy about it.” According to Raynold Gideon, the executive ended up calling Norman Lear personally to congratulate him.

The rest is history – and Constant Readers and cinephiles will forever be in debt to Lear because of it.

Constant Readers have a while to wait before we get to see the debut of Welcome To Derry – the upcoming streaming series that is being made as a prequel to Andy Muschietti’s IT and IT Chapter Two. The developing Max exclusive was originally going to premiere in time for Halloween 2024, and production even began amid the WGA strike back in May, but it was reported in November that the show is now targeting autumn in 2025.

That means that Welcome To Derry’s arrival is still about two years away… but that hasn’t stopped Max from teasing Stephen King fans with a cool first look.

With 2023 coming to an end, Max has released a preview video for their upcoming slate called “The One To Watch In 2024” (featured above), and despite the title, the reel features footage from the streaming service’s 2025 programming. This includes new seasons of shows like The Last Of Us, Euphoria, and The White Lotus… but obviously this is The King Beat, so I’m going to focus on what’s featured from Welcome To Derry: From The World Of IT.

The new show reportedly takes place in the 1960s, and the footage immediately has it sharing a common visual with the 1989-set IT Chapter One: the image of kids riding around Derry, Maine on bicycles. There is also a nice collection of scared faces, a burnt arm reaching out from a lake and grabbing a kid, and one of Pennywise’s red balloons floating through a tree. There is no sight of the titular monster itself, and there is still no word regarding whether or not Bill Skarsgård will be reprising the role.

Fans can spot Jovan Adepo in the Welcome To Derry footage (this is his second Stephen King adaptation after 2020’s The Stand), and he is joined in the cast by Taylour Paige, James Remar, Chris Chalk, Stephen Rider, and Madeleine Stowe. Hopefully we won’t have to wait until next December for a more in-depth look at the horrors that the show will be bringing to the small screen.

Stephen King in Sons of Anarchy

(Image credit: FX)

Stephen King’s Dollar Babies Program Has Come To An End

The Dollar Baby program is a special part of Stephen King’s legacy. While movie studios and television networks have regularly purchased the rights to the author’s novels, novellas and short stories, he has long kept a select group of titles aside for use by up-and-coming filmmakers looking to cut their teeth in the art form by adapting King’s work. With certain stipulations attached, they could adapt certain shorts for the price of one dollar.

It’s a terrific program – but as of this past week, it is no longer a thing.

This past Tuesday, writer and Stephen King scholar Bev Vincent posted a surprising screenshot to his personal Twitter page announcing that “The Dollar Baby Program has been disbanded as of December 2023.” The author’s official website, StephenKing.com, has a longer version of the message with a note about existing contracts:

The Dollar Baby Program was disbanded in December 2023. Contracts issued before December 2023 will be honored and will remain approved for one year from their instantiation, as per the terms of their contract. There will be no Dollar Baby extensions after December 1st, 2023.

Neither Bev Vincent’s Tweet nor the website provides an explanation as to why the Dollar Baby Program is concluding – and it spurred a fervent reaction from Constant Readers. About 11 hours after Vincent’s post, Stephen King personally addressed the situation, and he revealed that Margaret Morehouse (whom he refers to as “Margaret, the Mistress of Dollar Babies”) is retiring. Rather than a replacement being named, the program is ending along with her tenure.

See more

Many of the Dollar Baby films that have been produced are not available to watch because one of the aforementioned stipulations of the program is that the finished adaptation cannot be commercially exhibited without direct permission. Still, there are some standout short films that were made – with the standout work in the legacy being 1983’s The Woman In The Room, which was made by a young Frank Darabont (who later went on to make The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist).

The existence of the Dollar Babies has long been celebrated by Stephen King fans – inspiring film festivals and a comprehensive book from author Anthony Northrup that was published in 2021. It’s a shame that the program is coming to an end, but it will long be remembered as a special way that King contributed to the creative community.

Stephen King cameo in Kingdom Hospital

(Image credit: ABC)

Recommendation Of The Week: “The Woman In The Room”

With the Dollar Baby program ending, it only feels right to have my recommendation of the week be the aforementioned “The Woman In The Room.” The opportunity for you to personally adapt it for an exceptionally low price no longer exists, but you can still appreciate it as a powerful piece of writing that comes from a painful emotional place.

First published in the 1978 omnibus Night Shift, the Stephen King short story centers on a young man named Johnny whose mother is terminally ill and suffering. As he spends time with her in her hospital room, he considers ending her life as an act of euthanasia. It’s short, but it’s a story that hits like a punch in the gut and isn’t easy to shake – particularly if you’ve ever been in a similar situation with a loved one.

That does it for this edition of The King Beat, but be sure to head back here to CinemaBlend every Thursday for my latest column – and while you wait, you can check out my series Adapting Stephen King, chronicling the full history of Stephen King films and television shows.

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