Comedy gets early laughs with Lampoon

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Comedy Central has snapped up rights to three National Lampoon feature films ahead of their theatrical release.

The companies have struck a deal that will give the network the first broadcast-window premiere rights to the films that will kick in just a year after they are released in theaters. All three are set for theatrical release next year.

The deal includes "National Lampoon's Bag Boy," which centers on an underdog on a quest to become the top grocery bagger; "National Lampoon's Ratko: The Dictator's Son," about the party animal son of Eastern Europe's most despicable tyrant who comes to the U.S. to get a college education; and "National Lampoon's 301: The Legend of Awesomest Maximus Wallace Leonidas," a spoof of "300." "Bag Boy," executive produced by Conundrum Entertainment and directed by Mort Nathan, will be released first, coming out in the first quarter.

What's unusual about the deal is that Comedy Central will get the rights to each title just a year after its release. As part of the agreement, the network has rights to each title for a total of four years, including two years of exclusivity ahead of the pay TV window.

"When we're buying movies through the traditional route ... it usually takes 2 1/2 to three years minimum to get our hands on it," Comedy Central senior vp programming David Bernath said. "The opportunity to get involved with National Lampoon ... and get the films a lot sooner than mainstream studio fare was a real strategic hook."

Bernath added that the National Lampoon titles will be a good fit for the network's audience, especially the young male demo.

The deal comes as National Lampoon is in the midst of plans to strengthen its brand by halting the practice of licensing its name to other producers or production companies. It wants to now produce and own all of its films and control the distribution rights.

"Comedy Central is the optimum partner for the content we're producing," said Tom Daniels, president of worldwide distribution at National Lampoon. "This deal made perfect sense for us from the very beginning. It's not only great for our company but has given us the ability to launch our original production business. It's a new day and a new beginning for National Lampoon."

The company is planning to produce 12 films during the next three years. Bernath said that, in success, Comedy Central would look at acquiring more National Lampoon titles.

Daniels added that further announcements about output deals set up outside of the U.S. are in the pipeline but declined to divulge details. National Lampoon and Comedy Central also declined comment on the deal's financial terms.
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