IFC beams up Searchlight

Cabler will get the first network window for most pix

In a first for both companies, the Independent Film Channel has inked a multiyear output deal with specialty distrib Fox Searchlight.

Deal reps the only overall output pact IFC has made with a company outside of IFC Films and marks the first output deal for Fox Searchlight.

IFC and Fox reps declined to comment on price, but sources peg the deal’s worth at $30 million, a figure that could change based on domestic box office performance. Previously, IFC has made licensing agreements for film packages from Lions Gate Films, Miramax, MGM and New Line Television.

Cabler will get the first network window, in most cases, to Fox Searchlight films, which include upcoming pics “I Heart Huckabees,” “Sideways,” “Kinsey” and “Johnson Family Vacation” and current releases “Garden State” and “Napoleon Dynamite.”

Deal lasts through 2006.

While acquired indie films continue to be the core programming of IFC, net has been aggressively pushing since last year to break original series to distinguish it on digital tiers. Original efforts include renewed gameshow “Ultimate Film Fanatic,” docudrama “Film School” and original docs “A Decade Under the Influence” and “In the Company of Women.”

“These films, which make up 90% of our schedule, continue to be the engine that drives the network,” IFC general manager-exec VP Ed Carroll said, adding that Fox Searchlight’s hit-heavy track record makes it the perfect partner for an extensive output deal.

“Look at the buzz coming off ‘Kinsey’ and ‘Huckabees.’ That team has done a great job of doing interesting independent films that not only find an audience but even one outside of the arthouse,” Carroll said.

Other pics in the deal are “The Clearing,” “Thirteen,” “In America,” “Bend it Like Beckham,” “The Good Thief,” “28 Days Later,” “Le Divorce” and “Antwone Fisher.”

“Since its formation a decade ago, IFC, through its commitment to provocative stories and daring filmmakers, has dramatically expanded the audience for independent film,” Fox Searchlight Pictures prexy Peter Rice said. “We are honored to join forces with the IFC team.”

Deal was brokered for 20th TV by senior VP/general sales manager Steve MacDonald and for IFC by acquisitions veep George Lentz.

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