Cabler can air sci-fi epic beginning in middle of 2012

FX has landed bigscreen’s biggest fish, acquiring the basic cable rights to James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Sci-fi epic is burning up the box office. Global take was $1.14 billion through Wednesday, making pic the second highest grosser behind Cameron’s “Titanic” (and now passing “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”).

Terms of the FX deal weren’t disclosed, but it looks to be more than the standard pact, with FX laying out an estimated $25 million-$30 million. That’s a bit higher than other recent bigscreen purchases, but due to the nature of the movie’s global gross and demand from other networks, Fox was able to get a substantial increase.

Cabler can begin airing “Avatar” toward the middle of 2012 and will likely have a window that extends toward the end of the decade. Most deals last four years, but negotiations allowed for an extended window.

As part of its output deal with Fox, HBO will have the pay cable rights and air the pic before FX.

Cabler emphasized it has made major movie deals with many studios of late and didn’t receive any discounts or better terms because of the Fox-FX synergy.

FX will show the film in 2D but, depending upon the explosion of television technology, can also telecast the pic in 3D at any point.

Avatar” is just the latest B.O. giant FX has acquired. In November, cabler bought all four “Twilight” pics from Summit, including the recently released “New Moon,” the upcoming “Eclipse” and the planned “Breaking Dawn.” In summer, FX secured the rights to “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” from Paramount.

On the series side, FX has animated skein “Archer” premiering Jan. 14 and Timothy Olyphant starrer “Justified” (formerly “Lawman”) set to go in March. Third season of “Damages” shifts to Monday and begins Jan. 25.

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