NEW YORK — Cable networks TBS and TNT have purchased first broadcast rights to Universal’s runaway hit “The Mummy,” in a package that also includes “Life,” “EDtv” and “Primary Colors.”
Although the parties made no official announcement of the deal, the license fee Universal charges will depend on the domestic box office gross of the four movies. If “The Mummy” keeps packing them in — the pic crossed the $100 million B.O. mark Sunday — TBS and TNT could end up paying $20 million for that one movie alone. “Life,” with Eddie Murphy, is still playing in theaters, having grossed $60 million to date, so the cable nets could pay up to $9 million for the picture.
“Primary Colors,” a box office disappointment at $39 million, should fetch about $6 million in license fees, and “EDtv,” which has managed only about $22.5 million in the theaters, may bring in about $3.5 million from TBS and TNT.
The networks will be able to schedule their first burst of eight runs of each of the four movies in late 2001-early 2002.
John Malone’s Starz has the pay TV rights to the pictures as part of an output deal with Universal and will get them next year for a multirun exclusive window lasting about 18 months.
The TBS/TNT deal is the first time Universal has sold major theatricals in a first window to those cablers. Previously, Universal’s alliance, through Barry Diller, with the USA Network has meant that USA got first dibs on Universal titles looking for a cable-channel buyer.
In the last year, USA has locked up exclusive first-window rights to such Universal titles as “Out of Sight,” “Bride of Chucky,” “The Jackal,” “For Richer or Poorer” and “Mercury Rising.”
But sources say USA passed on “The Mummy” deal because the network needs far fewer movies than TBS/TNT. USA schedules four primetime movies a week, with a fifth on Wednesday that alternates with an original movie.
Turner needs pix
By contrast, TBS and TNT each slot as many as 12 primetime movies a week, although, when baseball and basketball are in season, the Atlanta Braves on TBS and National Basketball Assn. games on TNT decrease that number.
If “The Mummy” keeps luring people into the multiplexes over the next few weeks, TBS/TNT may go back to Universal and ask it to find a broadcast-network buyer to share the license fee of the first window. Most of TBS’ big exclusive movie purchase deals have made allowances for a shared window, including such titles as “The Matrix,” “Analyze This” and “You’ve Got Mail.” A broadcast network will pay up to $6 million for one run of a hit movie after TBS or TNT has taken its first eight-run burst, thus lowering the license fee to the Turner webs.