‘Lolita’ has date with USA

In an unusual deal, the USA Network has acquired the rights to “Casualties of Love: The ‘Long Island Lolita’ Story,” a made-for CBS telefilm that the Eye Web will air Jan. 3 — and that USA will air four-days later.

The deal goes outside of the traditional broadcast network movie path, giving USA rights to a project a few years before it would have normally aired such a project.

“Casualties of Love” is owned by TriStar Television. Instead of the typical deal for two runs over four years that the broadcast networks favor, CBS opted for just one telecast before the picture goes to cable. That airing comes Jan. 3 , up against a similar project on ABC. CBS does have the rights to an additional airing during the next four years.

Jack Scalia and Alyssa Milano front CBS’ version of a torrid tabloid tale involving Amy Fisher, a young Long Island woman, her affair with Joey Buttafuoco , a married man, and the eventual shooting of his wife, Mary Jo.

Each of the Big Three networks has gone after the story with a vengeance unseen in years. NBC was the first on the air, with its take on the case last night.

USA will air “Casualties of Love” Jan. 7 at 9 p.m. and again on Jan. 10 at 2 p.m.

“USA is always looking for programming, including that in the movie area,” said Neil Hoffman, VP of programming at the USA. “This particular movie was very attractive. The topic is just so hot right now.”

The cable network has acquired two runs in six months. Hoffman declined to discuss the license fee, but did say that the network did figure on a premium price for the project.

Typically, networks license a film such as this for $ 2.5-$ 2.7 million. USA normally spends about $ 2 million for a made-for. However, to get the project to air so soon, the cost was elevated. TriStar turned the project around quickly, as did the producers of NBC’s and ABC’s Amy Fisher movies.

NBC produced its version in three weeks. TriStar’s project is estimated to have cost some 20% more than the traditional network television movie.

CBS is believed to have paid more than it usually would for a telefilm, as did USA. Yet, despite CBS’ increased license fee, it was not enough to make the movie financially viable for the production house; part of TriStar’s deal with CBS called for the cable window as a way to offset the higher-than-normal production costs.

Executives from CBS and TriStar were unavailable for comment due to the holiday week. It remains to be seen if the nation’s television viewers want three attempts at telling the story.

“Casualties of Love,” is based on Joey and Mary Jo Buttafuoco’s side of the story. NBC has Amy Fisher’s rights and ABC’s is based on public accounts of the story.

“We haven’t quantified it,” Hoffman said of projections for the telecast. “We expect a good rating.”

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