Lifetime opens up theatrical window

Col's 'Fools' to air tonight, with M'max's 'Emma' in wings

NEW YORK — The major studios are not exactly popping champagne corks, but another buyer of theatrical movies in their first network window has quietly sidled into the marketplace: Lifetime has purchased “Fools Rush In” from Columbia Pictures and “Emma” from Miramax.

“We’ve decided to selectively pick up early-window movies that appeal to our female audience,” says Steve Warner, VP of programming for Lifetime Networks.

Lifetime has already scheduled “Fools Rush In,” starring Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek, for tonight. There’s no airdate yet for “Emma,” which stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor.

“Fools Rush In” wound up grossing $29.3 million in U.S. theaters and the domestic box office for “Emma” was $22.2 million. Warner declined to talk about how much Lifetime paid in license fees, but sources said the network forked over a dollar figure that was well below the standard rule of thumb of 15% of U.S. B.O. gross because there was minimal demand for the titles from the broadcast networks or from other cable networks.

Before their Lifetime runs, the two movies have showed up only on pay TV. HBO slotted “Fools Rush In” beginning in February 1998 as part of a pay TV output deal between Columbia and HBO. “Emma” previously turned up on John Malone’s Starz pay net, starting in the summer of 1997, thanks to its output deal with Miramax.