Fox, HBO pact output deal through ’09

Package worth about $1.5 bil

NEW YORK — Twentieth Century Fox Film and HBO announced Tuesday they’ve inked a new six-year output deal to run Fox Filmed Entertainment theatrical releases on the Time Warner cable net through 2009.

Neither party would comment on terms, but several people familiar with the deal, which extends an agreement that would have expired in 2003, said it is worth roughly $1.5 billion, and perhaps a bit more. The financials of output deals depend on a number of variables, most prominently a pic’s box office performance.

HBO’s other major studio output partners include sister company Warner Bros., Columbia Pictures, DreamWorks and TriStar starting in 2000 — plus a spate of indies.

“We have been business partners with HBO for nearly 20 years, and it’s gratifying to know that this relationship will extend now long into the future,” said Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman-CEO Bill Mechanic.

The agreement represents a hefty increase in per-movie payments, indicating a continuing hunger by pay cablers for theatrical films. Three pay-cable nets are currently vying for theatrical fare even as Hollywood studios produce fewer pictures each year.

The HBO/Fox arrangement encompasses all theatrical releases from 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, Fox 2000 and Fox Animation Studios. Upcoming pics that will air on HBO include “Anna and the King” with Jodie Foster, “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio, “X-Men” with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, “Navy Diver” with Robert De Niro, “Me, Myself and Irene” with Jim Carrey and “Cast Away” with Tom Hanks.

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