Revolution wheels $100 mil TV deal

Distribs will work around studio's existing Fox deal

Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios has engineered a deal with a pair of indie TV distributors that could harvest as much as $100 million in revenues from TV syndication, broadcast TV and basic cable.

The veteran distributors, partners Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein, will carve out a couple of windows to sell Revolution’s theatricals in a syndicated package to TV stations throughout the country.

Marcus said he and Bernstein will have to weave their way around Revolution’s existing deal with the Fox network, which gets the studio’s titles for four years after they complete their first pay TV window. (That exclusive pay window, owned by John Malone’s Starz!, lasts for 18 months.)

But Marcus said his deal covers the sale of Revolution movies not only in TV syndication but also to a broadcast network other than Fox or to a cable net other than Fox sibling FX.

NATPE push

Marcus and Bernstein plan to start promoting the syndication availability of such titles as “America’s Sweethearts,” “Blackhawk Down” and “XXX” at the National Assn. of TV Program Executives convention in Las Vegas later this month.

The business plan is still in the works, but stations would probably pay no cash for the movies, Marcus said. Instead, they would set aside half of the 28 minutes of ad time within a two-hour telecast and turn them over for sale by Marcus.

As is typical with these deals, the stations agree to run the movies twice within a specified three-week period. A strong title in a healthy ad marketplace could funnel more than $2.5 million from Madison Avenue to Marcus’ coffers for the double run.

Any money chalked up by Marcus from a deal with ABC, CBS or NBC would relieve Fox of some of the financial burden of its contract with Revolution.

The same is true for FX, which would save money if Marcus were able to find another cable-network buyer for specific titles within the Fox/FX window. Marcus’ contract calls for him to give FX a 120-day notice if it plans to sell Revolution movies to a rival cable network.

Marcus’ deal covers the 27 movies that Revolution’s theatrical partner Columbia Pictures has already released through the current “Christmas With the Kranks,” as well as the additional 18 movies Revolution plans to produce up to December 2006. Rob Moore, a partner in Revolution, said the domestic gross of the first 27 movies averages out to $60 million a title.

Win/win situation

Moore added that if Marcus and Bernstein scoop up millions of dollars from the sale of the studio’s titles in TV syndication, Fox and FX will benefit financially, as will Sony Pictures, whose Columbia division distributes the movies, and Starz!, which holds pay TV rights.

Fox, Sony and Starz! will come out ahead because, combined, they own 25% of Revolution. They secured the equity stake back in June 2000 when Roth needed money to set up the company. Starz! came through with $150 million, Sony shelled out $75 million and Fox ponied up $25 million.

Like the deal with Marcus and Bernstein, these contracts expire in December 2006, and Moore said it’s too early to start renewal talks for a new contract.

Although Marcus and Bernstein are partners, they each continue to run their own companies: Debmar Studios (Marcus) and Mercury Entertainment (Bernstein).

At the NATPE convention, the two will be more active than some of the major distributors. In addition to the Revolution movies, Marcus and Bernstein are partners on the syndication of reruns of “South Park” (off Comedy Central) and of “Farscape” (off Sci Fi Channel).