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Disney makes pay cable deals at Starz and Showtime [Updated]

March 11, 2010 | 10:38 am

It was "pay cable deal" day at Walt Disney Co.

Disney ABC Domestic Television group Thursday renewed its long-term distribution deal with Starz Entertainment to carry Walt Disney Studios films released theatrically through 2015. The previous agreement was set to expire in two years.

Separately, Disney also negotiated a new deal for DreamWorks that will see that production company's films go to CBS' Showtime.

The Starz deal covers Disney's live-action and animated films, including "The Princess and the Frog" and "The Proposal," and future movies from Disney's newly acquired Marvel Entertainment (other than "Iron Man 2" and four other films to be distributed by Paramount Pictures). Starz secured the rights to distribute movies from Disney, Disney Animation Studios, Disney-Pixar, Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures through its pay TV channels, as well as online and on-demand.

Miramax Films, which Disney is attempting to sell, also has a deal with Showtime. There are four unreleased Miramax films that would go to Showtime unless the company is sold and a new buyer decides not to release the movies. [For the record: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said there were six unreleased films covered by the deal. The four films are: "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," "The Switch," "The Debt" and "The Tempest."]

Under Disney's Showtime deal, the cable channel will carry DreamWorks Studios films released this year through 2015. Starz had indicated that id didn't want to distribute the DreamWorks movies to its viewers, and was urging Disney to find another outlet, people close to the situation said.

Showtime needs more movie content because one of its biggest providers of theatrical content, Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, teams with Lions Gate and MGM in Epix, a new pay cable channel that launched several months ago.

Showtime also has deals with Weinstein Co., Summit Entertainment and CBS Films, the latter of which just released its first movie, “Extraordinary Measures," to disappointing results.

Movies from DreamWorks Animation, which is a separate company, remains with HBO. 

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski