Fox films to ring up hard cell via Sorrent

Two-year deal's financial details weren't disclosed

Fox is making a big push onto cell phones, becoming the first studio to sign a comprehensive, worldwide deal to create mobile games, ringtones and other content based on its films.

Two-year deal with wireless entertainment publisher Sorrent is estimated to include an advance of several million dollars against royalties on content sales, although financial details weren’t disclosed.

As the market for wireless entertainment grows rapidly, particularly in Asia and Europe, cell phones have become an increasingly important distribution and marketing outlet for studios.

Fox and most of its competitors have signed individual deals to put content for tentpole films on cell phones. In addition, studios including Disney and WB have created their own wireless content.

All of the wireless content created by Sorrent for Fox will be sold to users, except for video trailers. But the studio views the deal as a play for both ancillary revenue and marketing exposure.

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“This was driven by our wanting to expand our marketing,” said Lucy Hood, News Corp. senior veep for content and marketing, who engineered the deal. “But at the same time there are over a billion people worldwide who could potentially pay to download this content.”

Jupiter Research recently estimated the market for wireless games in the U.S. in 2004 at $72 million, nearly triple the figure from 2003.

Fox’s deal includes the U.S. and most foreign territories, save for Japan, where Sorrent doesn’t yet have a presence. Wireless company is hoping the enticement of Fox content will help it push into Japan and expand its limited presence in China.

Only films not covered under the deal are Fox movies based on Marvel characters, including this summer’s “Fantastic Four.” Comicbook publisher has a separate deal for mobile content with Sorrent competitor Mforma (Daily Variety, Dec. 13).

Partnership begins with March animated release “Robots,” for which Sorrent has already begun producing games and other content.