Warner Bros. Deal Keeps AMC Current

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Bolstering its roster of movies spanning the last half-century of cinema, AMC has inked a deal for a collection of John Wayne films and jumped through an earlier viewing window via a pact with Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution.

The agreement for 22 Warner Bros. titles — including this month’s Batman Begins, Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby, The Last Samurai, Mystic River, Alexander and Troy — will let AMC premiere many of the films immediately after they emerge from the pay TV window.

First up: Two Weeks Notice, starring Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock and bowing June 12, 13 and 14 as part of a three-play burst.

AMC also will bow Insomnia in August, The In-Laws in November and Terminator 3 in January.

Sources valued the final cost of the Warner deal — which, in some cases, covers up to a four-year period — at somewhere north of $80 million.

Oxygen, through a deal cut with Warner Bros. Domestic Cable last December, also holds the rights to a number of these films, a network official said. Murder by Numbers premiered in February, with the next set of titles becoming available to women’s-targeted Oxygen in 2006.

32 DUKE TITLES

AMC inked an exclusive agreement with Paramount Pictures for 32 Wayne films, including digitally remastered editions of The High and the Mighty and Island in the Sky, movies that haven’t aired on TV in 25 years, according to AMC officials.

The agreements underscore the commitment AMC has made to expand its palette of films, which have grown beyond vintage titles to include more contemporary ones, a gambit that has lifted the network’s ratings.

“Moving into the network window does give AMC a way to broaden its appeal across various demographics,” Rainbow Entertainment Services president Ed Carroll said.

Following its strongest ratings year in 2004 relative to primetime, total-day and key demos, AMC has maintained momentum in 2005. Carroll said AMC is currently delivering a record number of adults 18 to 49, adults 25 to 54 and those 55 and older.

The network enjoyed its best May ever, up 10% to a 0.85 household rating, boosting its 18 to 49 primetime average 14% to 344,000 of those watchers and registering a 13% advance among the 25-to-54 set to 414,000, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

“Over the past 12 to 18 months, on any given night our highest-rated movie has been The African Queen, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Deer Hunter, Risky Business or The Shawshank Redemption,” Carroll said, adding that themed offerings like the Rocky films also rate well.

Carroll said “The Duke in December” delivered an average of 725,000 homes. On July 16 at 8 p.m., AMC will bow the remastered Island in the Sky, while The High and the Mighty screens in that timeslot on the following day. They anchor the “John Wayne World Premiere Weekend” marathon featuring such newly acquired Wayne films as Hondo, El Dorado, The Shootist, Sons of Katie Elder, True Grit, Hatari, Donovan’s Reef and Flying Tigers.

COMMITTED TO ORIGINALS

Carroll said observers shouldn’t expect AMC to become routinely involved in network-window bidding wars for theatricals that include broadcasters as well as such cable services as Turner Network Television, TBS, USA Network and FX.

“This certainly adds to the network value proposition, but we want to have a diversified mix. We want to continue investing in original programming,” Carroll said.

Sunday Morning Shootout has proven to be popular among viewers over four seasons, and upcoming original entries include documentary series Movies That Shook The World and interview series Movies 101.

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