‘School of Rock’/ ‘Rundown’ Deal

Nov 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

With their new prime-time shows struggling to find viewers or facing cancellation, the networks may be turning to theatrical movies as ratings insurance.
Fox Broadcasting last week acquired the rights to two of this year’s more popular films: “The Rundown,” starring wrestling hero The Rock, and “School of Rock,” starring Jack Black.
Fox will air “The Rundown” after its sibling network FX televises it on cable.
The deals might presage a thaw in the market for theatricals after a year in which studios have found it hard to generate fees for broadcast rights that approach the traditional benchmark of 15 percent of the box office take.
A Fox spokesman noted that both films are geared toward young men, a demographic the broadcasters have been having a hard time reaching this season.
Fox doesn’t have an established movie night on its schedule. However, during the current sweeps, the network has programmed movies on two Friday nights. Last week it ran “The Animal,” starring Rob Schneider, and this week it will air “Dude, Where’s My Car,” with Ashton Kutcher.
Fox bought “School of Rock” as part of a complicated deal with Paramount that also involved three cable networks.
Paramount is estimated to have reaped about $22 million for broadcast rights to “School” plus two other films, “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” and “Fighting Temptations.” That adds up to about 18 percent of the three films’ total box office. With the popularity and family-friendliness of “School of Rock,” and by getting several networks involved in the broadcast windows, Paramount was able to score an above-average fee for the films, insiders said.
“School of Rock” has generated $73 million at the box office so far. “Fighting Temptations” garnered about $30 million and “Dickie Roberts” brought in about $23 million.
Fox gets “School of Rock” first in May 2006 for six months, followed by a six-month play on one of Turner Broadcasting’s networks. Fox and Turner will alternate in the back-end of the window.
Turner has first dibs on “Dickie Roberts” in about April 2006, followed by MTV Networks. MTV is likely to put the films on either VH1 or Comedy Central.
UPN gets to run “Fighting Temptations” first, as soon as April 2006, followed by VH1 and Turner.
The Fox/FX deal for “The Rundown” will bring Universal about $7 million to $8 million. Universal also sold the Fox networks the film “Long Time Dead.” A Universal spokesman referred questions about the deal to Fox.
Robust Response
Some distributors said the sales indicate that the market for broadcast rights to theatrical films is heating up. CBS recently had a strong performance with “What Women Want,” starring Mel Gibson, and both broadcast and cable networks are doing well with movies. “One thing they can count on is movies,” one distributor said. “The marketplace is robust right now.”
Movies, he said, are “reliable and great for ad sales. The marketplace is just going to get stronger, and this [Paramount] deal is indicative of that.”
New Line’s film “Elf” is said to be attracting interest from a variety of networks, but one network executive noted that there are still relatively few films on the market that are appropriate and attractive to general entertainment channels.