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First Look pix it up

Pinnacle deal adds 56 films

First Look Studios has beefed up its just-formed TV syndication division by picking up domestic syndie rights to 56 movies from Pinnacle Entertainment, paying a license fee in the low seven figures.

Last month, First Look officially got into the syndie biz by purchasing U.S. rights to the 40 hours of Canadian supernatural sci-fi anthology series “The Collector” (Daily Variety, May 22).

But “Collector” won’t be available to TV stations until September 2007. Pinnacle deal allows Ken DuBow, executive VP of worldwide sales for First Look, to say, “We’ll be able to put a 20-title movie package into the marketplace right now.”

The Pinnacle movies originated as direct-to-video titles produced by Blockbuster through its DEJ Entertainment subsidiary. First Look bought DEJ from Blockbuster earlier this year, but hired Pinnacle to syndicate them. Now it’s taking them back from Pinnacle “to control our own destiny,” as DuBow put it.

The pictures include: “How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog” (Kenneth Branagh, Robin Wright Penn), “Desert Saints” (Kiefer Sutherland), “Stickup” (James Spader), “Avenging Angelo” (Sylvester Stallone), “Black Point” (David Caruso), “Harvard Man” (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and “River King” (Edward Burns).

DuBow said, “We’ll be careful about how we edit these movies so that stations won’t have to worry about content and language. These pictures will be FCC-friendly.” He’s referring to the recent crackdown by Congress that has boosted fines tenfold for sexual and violent material on broadcast TV.

First Look is planning to distribute these pictures to TV stations in 20-title packages each year. Eight of them would be for cash only; stations get six runs of each title over three years.

The 12 other movies run as monthly barter showcases; stations don’t pay cash for these once-a-month runs but set aside 14 minutes within each two-hour telecast for First Look to sell to national advertisers. Stations then pay cash for five more runs of the 12 pictures over three years.

Pinnacle had sold the first package to TV stations representing about 85% of the U.S., including WABC New York, KCAL Los Angeles and WLS Chicago.

In addition to these Pinnacle/DEJ titles, Henry Winterstern, chairman of First Look Studios, said he’ll take over domestic syndication of the hundreds of movies in First Look’s library, ranging from Eric Bana starrer “Chopper” to British comedy “Waking Ned Devine” to Demi Moore’s “Half Light” to — currently in theaters — Aussie Western “The Proposition.”

To help launch the syndie division, DuBow has hired Gene Lavelle as VP of syndication sales and has promoted Steve Saltman to VP of network, cable and new-media sales.

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