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Buyers of 'Bridesmaids' and 'Fast Five' TV rights may have to take the bad with the good

May 24, 2011 |  3:13 pm

Bridesmaids

Usually when a movie opens big at the box office the cable networks whip out their checkbooks and write numbers with lots of zeroes in them to buy the television rights.

But Comcast's Universal Pictures, which has had two of the biggest movies so far this spring with "Fast Five" and "Bridesmaids," is still waiting for the phone to ring.

It's not that there isn't a lot of interest in the two films. The former would fit on any male-skewing network (Spike and FX come to mind) while "Bridesmaids" is proving it is much more than a chick flick and could play either on a general entertainment channel (TNT, USA) or a channel aimed at primarily women (Lifetime).

However, it is extremely rare that movie titles are sold on an individual basis. Most studios prefer to sell movies in packages so they can unload the bad with the good. In the case of Universal, the studio wants to package "Fast Five" and "Bridesmaids" with other titles that aren't enticing bidders. The movies the studio is said to be trying to unload, according to potential buyers, include disappointments "The Dilemma," "The Adjustment Bureau," "Sanctum," "Paul" and "Your Highness."

Often movie deals end up being internal affairs. Warner Bros. sells movies to its sister cable channels, TBS and TNT. News Corp. sold "Avatar" to FX. Universal Pictures is part of the same company that owns USA and Bravo.

But that isn't always the case, especially if -- as with "Bridesmaids" and "Fast Five" -- there are a lot of movies being thrown in that aren't generating much heat.

The price for the TV rights to a movie is determined by how well it did at the box office. Deals usually run about four years and the license fee is generally 10% to 12% of the U.S. box office take. Typically, there is a cap of $200 million or so on the box office take in determining the price.

Because the pricing formula for movies is set, negotiations and bidding wars are often more focused on which network is willing to take the most turkeys along with the hot property.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: "Bridesmaids" on parade. Credit: Suzanne Hanover / Universal Pictures

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