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USA nabs rights to air Seagal direct-to-vid pix

'Beast,' 'Kill' hoping to replicate 'Foreigner' success

NEW YORK — Steven Seagal’s movies may not be packing them in at the multiplexes any more, but cable TV can’t get enough of the titles.

USA’s audience loves action movies, particularly TV premieres, spurring the network to buy Seagal’s two most recent titles, “Out for a Kill” and “Belly of the Beast,” both straight-to-video titles distributed by NuImage.

Avi Lerner, head of Nu Image, said the two movies cost $14 million apiece to produce. USA, he said, will pay a license fee of about $2 million for each title in exchange for an exclusive four-year window.

Another 1993 direct-to-video Seagal title “The Foreigner,” from Franchise Pictures, racked up better ratings than any other movie for the week USA ran it, with no promotion, earlier this month.

“The Foreigner” also ended up harvesting $11 million in DVD and video rentals since it landed in vidstores in January, making it the most-rented direct-to-video movie for the first six months of the year.

In “Out for a Kill,” Seagal plays a university professor caught up in a Mexican cocaine deal, who escapes from jail to take his revenge on the drug dealers. It premieres in video next week, and USA picks it up in the second quarter of 2004.

“Belly of the Beast” deals with an ex-CIA agent, played by Seagal, whose daughter is kidnapped. It hits vidstores in December, with USA getting the rights in 2005.

The distributor of all three on both DVD and cassette is Columbia TriStar Homevideo.

Lerner said the main reason his two Seagal movies went straight to video is that it would’ve cost the distributor $20 million to $25 million to market each of the movies to theaters. By contrast, marketing costs for a video premiere are in the $1 million range.