‘Blonde’ transition

Fox leads multi-net buys of Witherspoon starrer

NEW YORK — MGM’s hit movie “Legally Blonde” will end up harvesting about $15 million in total license fees from the Fox Network, Turner’s TBS/TNT and Comedy Central as part of a complicated deal for the first network window.

The unusual multiple-network contract for “Blonde” is a harbinger of future theatrical-movie deals. The movie studios are trying to keep license fees high in an economic climate that’s so soft it has weakened network demand for movies.

By inducing more than one network to share in the five-year window, the studio can collect more money than if just one network signed up for total exclusivity throughout the five years.

Bouncing around

“Legally Blonde” will bounce around like a pinball in its first network window. The movie kicks off on Fox in February 2004 for a one-year/two-run foray, then takes a year for multiple runs on TBS and TNT, jumping back to Fox for one run over six months and jiggling for its second one-year burst to TBS/TNT. For the final 18 months of the five years, Comedy Central gets its chance to engineer exclusive multiple runs of “Blonde.” Fox will pony up the biggest portion of the $15 million license fee because it gets the first two runs of the movie.

The convoluted deal for “Blonde” is not unprecedented: MGM put together a similar arrangement in late April for “Heartbreakers,” starring Sigourney Weaver and Gene Hackman. NBC bought the first two plays of “Heartbreakers,” followed by multiple runs on the Turner TBS/TNT combo. The movie would then finish its license term on Comedy Central.

MGM, positioning “Blonde” as easily playable on broadcast or basic cable because of its PG-13 rating, created an auction for the movie, with ABC, CBS, NBC and USA all coming to the table as they tried to get a piece of the network window.

As part of its output deal with MGM, Showtime has the pay TV rights to “Blonde,” getting it exclusively for 18 months, beginning in July 2002.

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