New blood is here

Showtime gets 'Twilight,' other Summit pics

Showtime has secured the first bona fide smash movie since chief film suppliers Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate opted to start their own network.

The CBS Corp.-owned net has inked an exclusive four-year output deal with Summit Entertainment for as many as 42 movies, including fall breakout "Twilight," which has earned $124 million domestically in two weeks of release. The movie will be on the network beginning in 2010.

The deal encompasses upcoming movies such as Nicholas Cage thriller "Knowing" and Lisa Kudrow comedy "Bandslam" and also two potential "Twilight" sequels, which are in development. It further gives Showtime first dibs on any subsequent movies in the franchise.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the license fees will be a percentage of the movies' domestic boxoffice, with those familiar with the deal saying those percentages will be in the mid-single digits. Summit topper Rob Friedman acknowledged that deals had to change as pay-cable networks revised how they valued feature-film acquisitions. "There were deals in the old world and deals in the new world, and we live in the new world," he said.

The Summit pact will not include a prepayment from the studio, as Showtime's recent agreement with the Weinstein Co. did.

The deal had been in the works for more than a year, with Showtime brass waiting for "Twilight" to hit theaters before making the final move.

Friedman said that the company had waited to sign a deal as it explored all options; asked if Summit had spoken to execs on the Par-MGM-Lionsgate startup, he said, "We talked to everybody."

The pact gives Summit the pay-TV deal that's considered the holy grail for many domestic distributors. But Friedman cautioned that while "Twilight" is a crown jewel, the deal was about a lot more than that franchise.

"A cable network doesn't live off one movie," Friedman said. "They looked at our slate and made a decision based on everything we have coming."

Showtime has rebuilt its feature pipeline since several studios decided to form their own network in April. The net has a deal with fledging corporate sibling CBS Films as well as a seven-year agreement with the Weinstein Co. that was inked in July.

Showtime also will continue to have access to movies from Paramount (2007 and older) and from MGM and Lionsgate (2008 and older) into 2011.

"We're very comfortable with the volume of movies we have," Showtime Networks chairman and CEO Matthew Blank said. "We will continue to be opportunistic and will move along with another movie deal if it makes sense, but our focus is on original series." (partialdiff)
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