Redford pays quiet visit, calls Oklahoma progressive

Friday, May 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Robert Redford promised to come to town after a cable television company retained his Sundance Channel.

On Thursday, he made good on that promise.

The cable channel is an outgrowth of his Sundance Institute, designed to develop promising screenwriters and directors and support the exhibition of independent films made outside the corporate studio system.

Films made at the institute are playing at the Oklahoma Museum of Art, and Redford, wearing a simple brown shirt, jeans and tassled loafers, made an appearance before about 200 filmgoers.

``The reason I think Oklahoma's so important, and I do, Oklahoma is Heartland,'' Redford told The Daily Oklahoman.

``And one of the reasons I started Sundance in Utah in the mountains, is to move away from the idea that film should only be located in New York or L.A. ... I'm anxious to get our festival to Oklahoma because it's right in the middle of the country, and it's also a progressive state for the arts.

``It's extremely progressive and I've learned enough to know that the audiences here were wanting it.''

Redford, 64, had a closed-door meeting with Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin and mixed with about 60 people in a private reception.

Local cable service Cox Communications announced in November it was dropping the Sundance Channel from its digital lineup to make way for four new, more commercially viable digital channels.

Redford began a personal campaign to keep his channel on the air in Oklahoma City, which included phone calls to Fallin, chairwoman of the Oklahoma Film Commission, and Dave Bialis, vice president and general manager of Cox Communications.

After a few days of negotiations, Bialis announced Cox had reached an agreement with Redford and his associates to keep the Sundance Channel in the digital lineup.

Redford said after the agreement that he would come to Oklahoma City.