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Single’Women’ on b’cast block

Eye has inside track, insiders say

NEW YORK — The power of Hollywood royalty has surfaced again with the decision by Paramount TV to open Mel Gibson’s “What Women Want” for broadcast and cable network bids as a one-picture offering.

Network buyers had been expecting Paramount to offer up a package of movies, using “Women” as the engine. Still unsold in the network window are such Paramount titles as “Down to Earth,” “Save the Last Dance,” “The Gift” and “You Can Count On Me.”

Paramount declined to comment on its movie strategy. But sources say the studio decided to engineer a clean one-title proposal so that Gibson’s Icon Prods., which is a profit participant in “Women,” would not have any worry that Par was devaluing the movie to bring up the prices of lesser titles.

Solo sales

In the last few months, Universal’s “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 20th Century Fox’s “Cast Away” and MGM’s “Hannibal” all got network deals for just that one picture: The studios didn’t use the giant-grossing titles to pull alongthree or four modest-performing movies. ABC wound up with “Grinch” and “Cast Away,” and “Hannibal” went to CBS and USA in a shared window.

Insiders say CBS has the inside track on the broadcast part “Women” because it’s a sister company of Paramount. But “Woman” has grossed $180 million in the U.S., so CBS would have to pony up a stiff license fee. Paramount will likely want between $25 million and $27 million from the winning broadcast bidder for three runs over three years.

Inside track

Cable networks like TBS, USA and FX are all interested in getting multiple runs over the final two years of the overall five-year deal, and they’re hoping that another Paramount sister network, TNN, will not enter a bid. TNN has not yet sprung for a network-window title because of the high cost, instead settling for dozens of familiar older Paramount titles like “Top Gun” and the three parts of “The Godfather.”

Like all Paramount titles, “Women” will go first to Showtime in January 2002 as part of an exclusive pay-TV output deal. The movie will get to broadcast about 33 months after its opening date in U.S. theaters.

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