Ion Lifts Feature Fare, Adding 85 Movies Via Deals With Four Studios


Ion Television, continuing to bolster its content roster and leaven its weekend movie block strategy, has inked licensing deals for some 85 feature films with a quartet of studios.
The pacts, terms of which were not disclosed, give Ion the right to theatricals from Warner Bros. (44 titles), Sony Pictures Television (16), Twentieth Century Fox (13) and MGM (12) through 2012. The first movies under the new contracts began airing on the network earlier this month, according to Ion officials.
"Proven blockbuster theatrical movies, together with our quality television series, have proven to be a successful entertainment formula with both our male and female audiences," said Brandon Burgess, CEO, Ion Media Networks, in announcing the deals. "Our recent expansion of the Big Movie Weekend block enables us to deepen our broadcast commitment to major theatrical studios."
Network officials said the "Big Movie Weekend" block has  helped Ion register 48% ratings growth over last season.
Ion Television's largest studio deal is with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. Highlights of the 44-film package include comedy Starsky & Hutch, with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson; the sea-faring film The Perfect Storm, starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg; The Guardian, starring Kevin Costner; and Analyze This and its sequel Analyze That with Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro.
From Twentieth Century Fox's library, Ion has gained the rights to Academy Award-winning movie for Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, starring award-winning actor Russell Crowe.
The Sony Pictures Television package includes Ali, the biography about The Greatest, starring Will Smith in the title role; the political action thriller Vantage Point, starring Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox; and crime drama We Own the Night, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg.
The MGM deal encompasses such fare as Be Cool, starring John Travolta and Uma Thurman; romantic comedy A Guy Thing, with Jason Lee; and Into the Blue, featuring Paul Walker and Jessica Alba.
The theatrical acquisitions also will help Ion program its expanded lineup, which now starts two hours earlier at 1 p.m. and extends through 1 a.m.