Network nabs unreleased comedies from studio

New Line TV has sold 10 theatrical movies to the USA Network, including three comedies that haven’t opened yet: “Sex and the City: The Movie,” the Will Ferrell vehicle “Semi-Pro” and “He’s Just Not That Into You,” starring Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johansson.

The license fee USA ends up paying to New Line for these network-window rights will depend on how much money the pics chalk up when they hit the multiplex. (“Semi-Pro” kicks off Feb. 29, “Sex and the City” on May 30 and “He’s Just Not That Into You” on Aug. 1.) The network will pony up about 11% of the domestic box office of each title, with a cap if the movie’s grosses start soaring past $150 million.

As in most such movie deals, USA will allow New Line to carve out a window or two for another net, either broadcast or cable, within the 4½-year license term of the contract.

The deal is the latest in a series forged by USA that have kept the network on track in the past year or so with FX and TNT/TBS, its main competitors for theatrical movies in the exclusive basic-cable platform.

Late last week, USA agreed to shell out upward of $50 million to Disney-ABC Domestic TV for cable rights to seven movies, led by “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” “Enchanted” and “No Country for Old Men.”

The rivalry for movies among the cable nets has caused both USA and FX to engage in a practice that had fallen somewhat out of favor: pre-buys of movies before they open in theaters. Last week, FX purchased five movies from Sony’s Columbia Pictures in advance of their theatrical premiere, including two produced by Judd Apatow: “Step Brothers” with Will Ferrell and “Pineapple Express” with Seth Rogen.

Various cable networks say CBS/Paramount is holding an auction for the pre-buy of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which opens in theaters May 22. More than one net is in the bidding, and the deal could close any day.

The seven other movies USA has purchased from New Line in the 10-title package are “The Golden Compass,” “Rendition,” “Shoot ‘Em Up,” “The Number 23,” “Martian Child,” “El Cantante” and “Running Scared.”

Under the deal, USA will be able to assign runs of the movies to one of its sister networks. Bravo and Oxygen could very well get some plays of “Sex and the City: The Movie” and “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Sci Fi Channel would be a natural for “The Number 23″ and “Martian Child.” And the Spanish-language version of “El Cantante,” with Jennifer Lopez, will definitely go to Telemundo.

USA gets “Golden Compass” in July 2010, “Semi-Pro” in September 2010, “Sex and the City: The Movie” in January 2011 and “He’s Just Not That Into You” in March 2011.

HBO will get these titles in advance of their debut on USA in the standard pay TV window. HBO has an exclusive output deal with fellow Time Warner operation New Line.

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