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ABC reels in WB pix

Cable, b'cast nets share kidpic pack

Warner Bros. Domestic Cable will pocket about $90 million in a sweeping movie deal that will funnel to ABC and its ABC Family sibling the last two “Harry Potter” movies, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Polar Express” and “Corpse Bride.”

Because the center of gravity for theatrical-movie sales in the first network window has shifted from broadcast to cable, ABC Family will shell out $60 million to Warners; the ABC net will fork over the other $30 million.

“With this deal, we’re making a statement,” said ABC Family prexy Paul Lee. “We want to be a destination for top movies that have particular appeal to our 18- to 34-year-old target audience.”

ABC will get the broadcast premiere of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “Polar Express” and “Chocolate Factory.” But ABC Family gets five-year cable-exclusive windows to “Azkaban,” beginning this year, and “Goblet of Fire,” starting in 2008. ABC Family has reserved the right to shift some runs of “Polar Express,” “Chocolate Factory” and the “Potter” movies to the Disney Channel toward the end of the Warners contract.

ABC Family buys lots of movies because it runs them every night except Monday, when it schedules its original series “Wildfire” and “Beautiful People.”

But the net also has created what Lee calls “branded programming events.” One of those annual events, “13 Nights of Halloween,” will be the venue for the TV premiere of “Corpse Bride,” the eerie Tim Burton-directed animated movie.

Another ABC Family event, “25 Days of Christmas,” will feature the basic-cable premiere of “Polar Express.”

Warner Bros. deal also includes three other theatricals that will kick off their exclusive TV runs on ABC Family: “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed,” “Cinderella Story” and “Looney Tunes: Back in Action.”

ABC Family has engineered a number of previous deals with Warners, not only for movies (“You’ve Got Mail,” “Miss Congeniality,” “The Perfect Storm”) but for reruns of such series as “Smallville,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Full House” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” all staples of the net’s schedule. Eric Frankel, prexy of Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution, engineered these deals for the studio. Tom Zappala, senior VP of programming for ABC Family, negotiated for the net.

Because movies and reruns are pre-sold commodities, Lee said they will serve as marketing tools to help promote the three additional firstrun series the cabler has commissioned to supplement “Wildfire” and “Beautiful People” in the next year.