Cabler nabs soon-to-be released pix, sets pay ceiling

NEW YORK — Miramax Films keeps defying the sluggish TV marketplace for theatrical movies, selling to Comedy Central three pictures that haven’t even made it to theaters yet: “Scary Movie 3,” “My Boss’s Daughter” and “Duplex.”

One unusual aspect of the deal is that Comedy Central is buying only a part of the network window, allowing Miramax more time to find another buyer to share the license fee, whether that buyer is a broadcast or cable net.

To keep its license fee down, Comedy Central has agreed to surrender the first play of each of the movies to whichever network buys the other share. As its part of the deal, Comedy Central gets each pic for multiple runs in years two, four and five of the network window.

But because of the shaky climate for theatrical movies, whose network ratings have fallen off in recent years, Miramax had to make a concession to Comedy Central by agreeing to a ceiling on the license fee. That protects the network in case one or more of the movies becomes a big hit in theaters.

Miramax and Comedy Central declined to discuss the terms of the deal, but the two networks that eventually buy the movies will together pay a low-double-digit percentage of the domestic box office. The cabler’s portion of the license fee will be less than half of the total because it won’t get the first play in mid-2006.

Kathryn Mitchell, senior VP of programming for Comedy Central, said, “Starting with ‘Scary Movie 3,’ I liked the pedigree of the pictures.”

“Scary Movie 3″ stars Charlie Sheen and his wife, Denise Richards, along with Queen Latifah, Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, Leslie Nielsen and George Carlin.

Mitchell said “My Boss’s Daughter” has some extra bounce because it stars Ashton Kutcher, who has received plenty of publicity of late due to his relationship with Demi Moore.

And “Duplex” co-stars Drew Barrymore and Comedy Central fave Ben Stiller, Mitchell said.

As part of the deal, Comedy Central also gets the exclusive network window to Eddie Griffin’s comedy-performance movie “Dysfunktional Family,” which will cost the network peanuts because the picture grossed just $2.24 million in U.S. theaters.

Miramax distributed “Duplex,” but the three other pics came from sister company Dimension Pictures.

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