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Par pix buy ‘Feathers’ A&E’s nest

Net aims for top 10 among basic cable in 25 to 54 range

HOLLYWOOD — A&E, pushing hard to improve its ratings and lower the age of its average viewer, has bought the network window to “The Hours” and “Four Feathers” from Paramount, along with seven Par titles released between 1990 and 1994.

At a license fee of between $6 million and $7 million combined for all nine movies, A&E gets the exclusive basic-cable premiere of both “Four Feathers,” with Kate Hudson and Heath Ledger, and “The Hours” in September 2005.

The seven other pictures, and their availability dates to A&E, are “Clear & Present Danger” and “Indecent Proposal” in 2004, “Patriot Games” and “The Firm” in 2006, and “Forrest Gump,” “Ghost” and “Hunt for Red October” in 2007.

A&E confirmed the titles but declined to comment on the license fee.

The network is counting on movies like these and a batch of 45 pictures bought earlier this year from Miramax, titles like “Good Will Hunting,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Pulp Fiction,” to stem its recent Nielsen erosion and shove A&E back into the top 10 among basic-cable networks in people 25 to 54.

For the third quarter of 2003 in primetime, A&E’s 25-54 total dropped by 13% compared with the same period last year, putting the network in 14th place overall.

A&E has decided on Thursday at 9 p.m. as its showcase for movies, getting a ratings lift already from such pictures as “Rain Man” and “Reservoir Dogs.”

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