Network pays $55 million for movies

FX has forked over about $55 million for the exclusive network-window rights to five theatrical movies from 20th Century Fox, led by three summer hits: “The Simpsons Movie,” “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.”

The movies become available to FX during the fourth quarter of 2009, after they’ve completed their exclusive pay TV run on HBO. FX declined to comment on the deal.

FX tends to be aggressive in its pursuit of theatricals because the network’s primetime schedule is heavily dependent on them. Unlike basic cable competitors TNT, USA, A&E and Spike, FX doesn’t buy off-network hours, instead relying on popular movies as primetime lead-ins to its original 10 p.m. series including “Nip/Tuck,” “The Shield,” “Rescue Me,” “Damages,” “Dirt” and “The Riches.”

Although 20th Century Fox and FX are both divisions of News Corp., FX has also bought titles this year from studios including Columbia (“Spider-Man 3,” “Superbad,” “Ghost Rider”) and Disney (“Wild Hogs”).

As part of the new deal, 20th will be allowed to carve out a window within the four-year FX license term to sell one or two runs of the movies to a broadcast net.

The two other titles in the Fox deal are “Death Sentence,” a revenge thriller with Kevin Bacon, and “Hitman.” Both movies were box office disappointments, but their content fits FX’s programming strategy, which is geared more toward males than females.

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