FX opens window in 7-pic deal

Cabler nabs 1st airing of 'Tomorrow,' 'Robot'

NEW YORK — FX will pony up more than $50 million to 20th Century Fox for the first network window plays of seven theatrical movies, led by “The Day After Tomorrow,” “I, Robot” and “DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story.”

In a key component of the deal, 20th will be able to harvest more money from the titles by carving out a broadcast network window for at least one primetime run of the seven titles following their premiere on FX. FX and 20th declined to comment on the transaction.

The trend in movie sales during the last few years is for the distributor to sell a movie to two and sometimes even three cable channels in a shared network window.

The studios have had to resort to these sales tactics because cable and broadcast are not paying the prices for movies that they used to. The only way for a studio to pocket a dollar figure that’s at least 12% of domestic box office — the benchmark for a successful transaction — is to parcel out the movie to as many networks, including broadcast, as it can squeeze into a five-year license term.

But FX has a policy of demanding cable exclusivity for theatrical movies, which it’s willing to share with only one broadcast network. Under those contracts, the broadcast web would take a run or two after FX’s first plays. FX schedules movies every night in primetime.

Among the theatricals FX has bought that get their network premieres in 2005 are “The Sum of All Fears,” “X2,” “Anger Management,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” “SWAT,” “XXX,” “Daredevil” and “Changing Lanes.”

Many of these titles will lead in to original episodes of FX’s original scripted series “The Shield,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Rescue Me,” plus new shows the network is developing for 2005 and 2006.

The four other titles in the package FX has just bought from 20th are “Alien vs. Predator,” “Man on Fire,” “Johnson Family Vacation” and “Girl Next Door.” FX gets these pictures beginning in 2007, after they’ve completed their run on HBO, which has the exclusive pay TV output deal with 20th.

FX and 20th are sister companies, but 20th’s theatricals don’t automatically flow to FX. TBS bought such recent 20th titles as “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Stuck on You” and TNT has picked up “Runaway Jury” and “Unfaithful.” ABC Family also shelled out for a shared window to “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

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