Turner nets Par pix

Opens window for 'Rat Race,' 'Zoolander'

NEW YORK — Paramount has sold Turner Broadcasting the exclusive network window to four of its recent theatricals: “Rat Race,” “Domestic Disturbance,” “Zoolander” and “Hardball.”

Turner will pony up about $26 million for a five-year license term to the four titles, which comes to about 14% of the four’s total domestic gross.

That’s a bounteous license fee in such a soft market for movies. In exchange, Par has agreed to let Turner carve out a window on “Rat Race” and “Zoolander” within the five-year term for Comedy Central, and to place some primetime runs of each of the four on Turner sister net the WB. (Turner parent AOL Time Warner is half-owner of Comedy Central.)

Paramount deal strengthens the perception that the WB has begun to move away from its previous position of not including movies in its programming strategy. The WB joined with Turner to snare the rights to all three “Lord of the Rings” movies from New Line, which will cost the networks about $160 million in license fees.

And Comedy Central won’t have to wait until the fourth year of a five-year contract to get “Rat Race” and “Zoolander”: Turner plans to open a two-year window for the net right in the middle of the contract, after which the movies will return for further plays on TBS and TNT.

Spokespeople for Paramount and Turner confirmed the movie deal without commenting on the terms.

These kinds of shared windows among multiple networks have become the norm as movie companies seek to keep their prices high at a time when the broadcast nets are buying fewer theatricals because their movie ratings keep diminishing.

By the time the movies get to the network window — about 33 months after their debut in the multiplexes — each title has journeyed on a videocassette and DVD odyssey in the video store, after which it wends its way to pay-per-view and pay TV. Broadcasters say all of these pre-network windows end up eroding viewer interest in the movies almost three years later.

But, unlike broadcasters, cable nets can schedule multiple runs of the pics in the first few weeks of their availability, generating a blitzkrieg of publicity to make viewers aware that they can still catch one of the movies even if they miss the first cable showing.

Paramount and Turner have done a lot of movie business in recent years. Turner has bought shared windows to “Mission: Impossible 2,” “What Women Want” and the studio’s last major package, which included “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Along Came a Spider,” “Save the Last Dance” and “Enemy at the Gates.”

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