USA network picks ‘Pirates’

Film available to USA September 2009

Disney’s Buena Vista TV has sold “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” to USA Network for a license fee of about $28 million in the network window.

USA pursued the pic with cutthroat fervor because it had bought the rights to the first two “Pirates” movies. The network piled up the highest rating for a theatrical movie in USA’S 27-year history when it aired the first of the “Pirates” pics, “Curse of the Black Pearl,” last year.

“Black Pearl” ran three more times to big Nielsens over the next year, and played again Thursday night as lead in to the premiere of USA’s highly publicized limited series “The Starter Wife,” with Debra Messing. USA will take three more primetime “Black Pearl” runs over the weekend to feed off the clamor surrounding the theatrical release of “At World’s End.”

“At World’s End” becomes available to USA in September 2009 for a five-year license term. Within the span of that five-year period, however, USA has allowed Buena Vista to sell as many as three separate one-run windows of “At World’s End” to a broadcast or a cable network, which could pump another $8 million or more in license fees into the studio’s coffers.

Before it gets to USA, “At World’s End” will begin its pay-TV premiere next summer on John Malone’s Starz.

USA doesn’t buy as many theatrical movies as its biggest cable competitors, FX and Turner’s TNT/TBS, because it has high-rated World Wrestling Entertainment free-for-alls on Monday, hit firstrun series such as “Monk” and “Psych,” and popular reruns of “House,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

But USA in recent months has bought Fox’s “Borat,” Columbia’s “Casino Royale” and Universal’s “The Break-Up,” and figures to be active in the market for pictures like B.V.’s “Wild Hogs” (still unsold), Universal’s “Evan Almighty” and New Line’s “Rush Hour 3.”

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