USA opens pic windows

Four nets spend $20 mil for 'House'

NEW YORK — The theatrical-movie marketplace got an adrenaline shot of network revenue Wednesday when USA bought cable TV rights to Buena Vista’s “Bringing Down the House” and Paramount’s “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “The Hunted.”

USA will share “House” with ABC, Fox and Comedy Central, with the four networks combined funneling about $20 million into Buena Vista’s coffers.

USA gets “How to Lose a Guy” for four years, sandwiched around an 18-month/two-run window for CBS. For “The Hunted,” USA picks up total exclusivity for the entire 4½-year window. USA will pony up about $10 million for “How to Lose a Guy” and $4 million for “Hunted”; CBS will fork over about $5 million for its share of “How to Lose a Guy.”

USA, Buena Vista and Paramount declined to comment on the deal.

The deals prove a box office hit such as “Bringing Down the House” can still harvest big bucks from the networks, despite a sluggish marketplace that has had the major studios cryin’ the blues for the last year or so.

“House” is a classic example of the complicated mix of synergy — ABC, which gets the first run in the spring of 2005, is a sister company of Buena Vista — with risk-sharing: Fox, USA and Comedy Central will take some of the financial burden of the purchase off ABC.

And as the networks seek to get access to strong movies early in the game without paying exorbitant license fees, the windows are getting more and more byzantine. During the first two years of “House,” Fox gets its one and only run after ABC’s first play, with ABC taking a second run of the movie six months later.

Then “House” journeys to USA for multiple runs over three years. Comedy Central comes in at the back end for multiple plays over a 12-month period.

USA is showing its muscle with “How to Lose a Guy” by elbowing out CBS for the first set of runs in a six-month window, despite the fact that CBS is a sister company of Paramount. CBS comes in second, but gets 18 months to play its two runs. Pic then goes back to USA for the final 3½ years of the deal.

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