‘Perfect’ synergy

TBS, TNT splurge on WB pix; NBC in for share

NEW YORK — Time Warner’s TBS and TNT have engineered their biggest buying spree of the summer, landing the first network play of “The Perfect Storm,” “Space Cowboys” and three other Warner Bros. movies for $50 million.

“Storm” and “Cowboys” will also get two plays each on NBC as part of a shared window with TBS and TNT. The three nets will share Warners’ “Replacements” and “The Art of War.” In separate Warner Bros. deals, TBS gets the first run of the Jamie Foxx thriller “Bait,” which opens later this month, and NBC gets first dibs on “Romeo Must Die,” which grossed $56 million in U.S. theaters earlier this year.

Insiders said NBC, which didn’t take the “Bait,” will pony up $10 million- $12 million for the five Warners titles.

“The record 6.8 rating TBS racked up when it ran the network premiere of ‘As Good as It Gets’ last month proves to me that buying early windows of hit movies is the right direction for the company,” said Bob Levi, president of worldwide program planning and acquisitions for the Turner Entertain-ment Networks.

Second in the pool

Although TBS and TNT won’t get the first run, Levi has bought the final two years of five-year windows to three of Disney’s Buena Vista titles: “G.I. Jane,” “Judge Dredd” and “Deep Rising.” ABC previously bought three runs of “G.I. Jane” and “Deep Rising,” and NBC purchased three runs of “Judge Dredd.”

As part of the same deal with Buena Vista, TBS bought three additional runs of “Pretty Woman,” to which it owns exclusive rights through 2004. In its umpteenth run on Sunday, Aug. 6, “Pretty Woman” harvested an eye-popping 6.1 rating in cable homes.

But the biggest prize in Levi’s latest spasm of dealmaking is “Perfect Storm,” which will end up the third highest-grossing movie of the summer, behind “Mission: Impossible 2” and “Gladiator.” Levi says “Storm” should get an extra boost when it premieres on TBS during the first quarter of 2003, because its star, George Clooney, is a TV star. All of the Warner Bros. movies will go to HBO in an exclusive 18-month pay TV window before they become available to TBS and TNT.

In earlier deals this summer, Levi landed a shared window for Para-mount’s “M:I2,” Columbia’s “The Patriot” and Par’s “Shaft,” and bought the exclusive network window to Touchstone’s “Gone in Sixty Seconds.”

With their joint purchases, TBS and TNT have now locked up the rights — both exclusively and in shared win-dows with various broadcast networks — to more than 200 theatricals. This makes TBS and TNT by far the most active of the cable webs in lining up the rights to first-network-window movies.

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