Encore, the minipay network for older theatricals that two months ago engineered a five-year deal for Universal releases through 1997, has just signed a four-year theatrical-output pact with New Line Cinema.

A joint statement says the deal could be worth $ 37.5 million a year to New Line, or $ 150 million over the full four years.

The companies say Encore has agreed to buy a minimum of 15 New Line theatricals each year (a few of which could come from the Fine Line subsidiary), beginning in January 1994, at an average cost of $ 2.5 million a title.

Cable sources say Encore will pony up between 30% and 35% of each picture’s domestic-rental income from theatrical release, which means that the average movie out of a total of 60 New Line pictures will have to harvest $ 7.5 million or so in rentals over the course of the four years. One source says Universal will probably collect about $ 4 million a title from Encore, which will be paying the studio one-third of the average rental income of $ 12 million for the U theatricals.

‘Significant pictures’

Michael Lynne, president and chief operating officer of New Line Cinema, says his optimism over the $ 150 million projection comes out of “our plans to produce more significant pictures over the next few years.”

Despite the fact that New Line is an independent company which has to make sure its budgets “are not foolish and irresponsible,” Lynne says he’s releasing more movies in the $ 10-to-$ 15 million category than at any other time in New Line’s history.

Among them are “Blink,” a romantic thriller with Madeleine Stowe and Aidan Quinn, directed by Michael Apted; “Lane Frost,” a biopic about the championship rodeo rider, directed by John Avildsen and starring Luke Perry; “Pet,” a family comedy with Harvey Keitel and Mimi Rogers and “Surviving the Game,” with Rutger Hauer and Ice-T.

On the drawing boards are a new “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie to be written and directed by Wes Craven; a sequel to “National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon”; and a romantic comedy called “Corinna, Corinna,” which Steve Tisch will produce and Whoopi Goldberg will star in later this year when she finishes “Sister Act 2″ for Touchstone Pictures.

Showtime had served as the previous exclusive pay-TV exhibitor of New Line, agreeing to take only the best eight pictures each year.

Showtime didn’t commit

One insider says that Showtime didn’t want to commit to as many as 15 New Line pictures a year from 1994 through 1997 because it just signed a five-year deal with TriStar Pictures, which will funnel at least 75 titles to the network over the course of the contract, which begins in 1994.

John Sie, chairman and CEO of Encore Media Corp., says he’ll use the New Line pictures to strengthen the firstrun minipay channel that’ll be one of seven new networks Encore will begin rolling out in July 1994.

Focus on theme

The six other channels will each focus on a theme (Western, mystery, drama, etc.) and fill their schedules with Encore’s library of 2,500 movie titles (mostly theatricals and TV movies from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s) and 3,500 series episodes, all of them picked up from the major studios and indies like Republic and Worldvision.

Right now, Encore is a one-channel all-movie minipay service highlighting pictures made between 1960 and the early 1980s. Its subscriber count is at 3.9 million (out of a possible 16-million homes with access to the channel).

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