Fox locks up monkey biz

'Apes,' 'Dolittle 2,' 'Dragon' to hit net early in 2004

NEW YORK — Twentieth Century Fox’s “Planet of the Apes” will end up in a shared network window on Fox and its cable sibling FX, along with two other theatrical movies, “Dr. Dolittle 2” and “Kiss of the Dragon.”

A spokesman for the Fox network confirmed the deal, which will funnel all three movies to Fox early in 2004, following their exclusive pay TV run on HBO.

Since the three movies are still tracking in the theaters, the license fee that Fox and FX pays their sister company 20th Century Fox is still to be determined. But sources say the networks will together pay about 15% of the domestic box office gross, which is consistent with going rates in a marketplace that has softened because of declining ratings of theatrical movies, and a sluggish climate on Madison Avenue, which has forced the networks to give big discounts to advertisers in the upfront selling season.

Fox and FX have shied away from buying theatricals in recent months precisely so they could build up a war chest that would allow them to engineer a preemptive deal for “Apes” and “Dolittle,” which 20th had projected as sure-fire hits in the theaters.

For example, Fox and FX didn’t put in a bid for Universal’s “The Fast & the Furious,” despite the fact that both networks have scored big Nielsens with NASCAR races in the first half of the year, which would’ve ended up as appropriate cross-promotion engines for a movie about drag racing on city streets. USA network bought “Fast & Furious.”

Fox and FX also held their fire on a Paramount movie package featuring “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Save the Last Dance” and “Along Came a Spider,” among other titles, which went to Turner Broadcasting’s TBS and TNT.

The Fox network will get the premiere run of “Apes,” “Dolittle” and “Dragon” and then the titles will go to FX, shifting back to Fox and then back again to FX over the course of the five-year deal.

Like a previous Fox/FX deal for such 20th titles as “The X-Men” and “Me, Myself & Irene,” FX will also get the exclusive basic-cable window to the three titles after HBO gets its second pay TV run.

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