NBC pays big to b’cast ‘Antz,’ ‘Egypt’

D'Works pact includes promo push

NEW YORK — NBC has bought exclusive network TV rights to DreamWorks’ first two animated theatricals, “Antz” and “The Prince of Egypt.”

Network sources say NBC will put up a guarantee of between $10 million and $15 million for each picture. If the movies end up grossing more than $100 million, NBC’s license fee will go up on a sliding scale of roughly $1.5 million extra for each additional $10 million of domestic box office.

And if either picture becomes a mammoth hit on the level of Disney’s “The Lion King,” NBC could end up paying more than $40 million for the movie.

NBC gets three runs of “Antz” and “Egypt” as part of its guaranteed price over a three-year period. But if the movies end up as $100 million-plus winners, the network will get additional runs and additional years to play them off as the license fee escalates.

As part of the deal, NBC says it will schedule primetime specials to run in conjunction with the theatrical release of each movie, supplying DreamWorks with a strong promotional send-off.

Sources say DreamWorks’ insistence on these specials became one of the key reasons why ABC decided not to buy “Antz” and “Egypt,” even though the network has an output deal that gives it first crack at theatrical movies distributed in the U.S. by DreamWorks.

The Walt Disney Co. owns ABC, and the last thing Disney would want is for ABC to be using its valuable primetime real estate to promote the animated theatrical movies produced by a rival studio. Network sources say, though, that ABC would have had to take “Antz” and “Egypt” if DreamWorks had not managed to strike a deal for the pictures with one of ABC’s rival networks.

Both “Antz” and “Egypt” will work their way through the standard aftermarket windows before they get to NBC. The two movies go to the videostores about six months after their debut in the multiplexes, then two or three months later appear on pay per view. HBO gets the two in late-1999/early-2000 in an exclusive pay TV window as part of the network’s 10-year output deal with DreamWorks. Following HBO, NBC will be able to schedule the pictures in the fourth quarter of 2001.

Sharon Stone, the voice of Princess Bala, one of the main characters in “Antz,” will host the special featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the production of “Antz,” which opens in theaters Oct. 2. The special will run on Oct. 10. Other voices in “Antz” include those of Sylvester Stallone, Gene Hackman, Woody Allen, Danny Glover and Jennifer Lopez.

NBC will collaborate with DreamWorks on a holiday special featuring music from “The Prince of Egypt,” which opens worldwide Dec. 18. The special, whose December air date is still to be determined, will showcase performances by artists from the movie soundtrack, including songs written by Stephen Schwartz for the two albums spawned by the movie, “Prince of Egypt — Nashville” and “Prince of Egypt — Inspirational.” Among the actors lending their voices to “Egypt” are Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Sandra Bullock, Steve Martin and Michelle Pfeiffer.

In a statement, Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC West Coast, put the harvesting of “Antz” and “Egypt” in the big-event strategy the network has pursued over the last few years, stocking up on such blockbuster titles as “Titanic,” “Men in Black,” “Lethal Weapon 4” and “Godzilla.” NBC’s original movies and miniseries have featured such mega-budgeted, high-concept Nielsen winners as “Merlin,” “The Odyssey” and “Gulliver’s Travels.”

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