Network nabs rights to Will Smith action movie

FX, continuing its aggressive buying of fresh theatrical movies, has picked up Will Smith starrer “Hancock,” which bows in theaters today, from Sony Pictures TV.

The license term of the movie, distributed by Sony’s Columbia Pictures division, is four years, beginning late in 2010, and FX will pony up more than $20 million if moviegoers flock to the multiplexes. The formula covers a payout of about 12% of the domestic box office, with a cap if the movie goes well above $200 million.

Two Will Smith vehicles, “Independence Day” and “I, Robot,” consistently chalk up big Nielsen ratings every time FX schedules them, making the bid for “Hancock” a no-brainer for the network.

FX has become Sony’s most active movie buyer in the past year, having just last week secured the rights to Adam Sandler’s “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” for about $11 million.

Earlier this year, FX bought three Sony movies Columbia hasn’t released yet: “The Step Brothers,” with Will Ferrell; “The International,” a thriller with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts; and “Pineapple Express,” with Seth Rogen. Other 2008 Columbia releases bought by FX include “21,” “Walk Hard,” “Untraceable” and “We Own the Night.”

FX’s contract allows Sony to carve out a run or two of “Hancock” for sale to a broadcast network within the span of the license term.

One of the big reasons for FX’s push to buy theatricals is that they tend to harvest more younger viewers than do reruns of police procedurals, which FX steers clear of. Younger viewers fetch a premium on Madison Avenue.

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