ABC locks in early for ‘Pearl,’ ‘A.I.’

Alphabet also gets exclusive rights in network window to 'Mexican'

NEW YORK — ABC has locked in early bids on two of the expected summer theatrical blockbusters: Touchstone’s “Pearl Harbor” and DreamWorks’ “A.I.” Both will become available to ABC in 2004.

As part of its renewed output deal with DreamWorks, ABC will also get exclusive rights in the network window to “The Mexican,” taking title late in 2003. ABC’s license fee for the movies will be tied to the pics’ eventual domestic box office grosses.

ABC declined to comment on financial details, but sources say if “Pearl Harbor” and “A.I.” break through and go beyond $200 million in U.S. multiplexes, ABC will shell out more than $30 million apiece.

Rare move

ABC and Touchstone are sister companies, both owned by Walt Disney, but it’s somewhat unusual for a network to pre-buy a movie so far in advance of its theatrical release. Typically, the studio puts a hit movie up for bids among the Big Four broadcast networks and all of the general-entertainment cable nets shortly before its opening to come up with a marketplace value. That figure becomes the price if a sister network then takes dibs on the title.

Despite ABC’s ties to Touchstone and DreamWorks, the network has successfully outbid its broadcast rivals to buy outside product as well, including the exclusive network window to two theatricals that have each grossed more than $200 million in the U.S., Universal’s “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and 20th Century Fox’s “Cast Away.”

ABC will get “Pearl Harbor” after its exclusive pay TV window on Starz!, and “A.I.” and “The Mexican” after their exclusive pay windows on HBO.

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