Fox Television's top-rated series 24 is secure for three more years, as its star Kiefer Sutherland has signed an 8-figure deal to continue with the show through May 2009. The deal makes Sutherland one of the highest-paid drama actors on television.

Variety reports that as part of Sutherland's new contract, he will establish a production company on the 20th Century Fox lot in Los Angeles to produce series programming for both broadcast and cable networks.

Sutherland, currently co-exec producer on 24, will be bumped up to exec producer for the upcoming sixth and seven seasons of the show. He shares that title with creators Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, as well as Howard Gordon and Evan Katz.

While the deal with Fox is for TV only, Sutherland said he and the show's producers continue to believe in the idea of bringing the 24 franchise to the bigscreen. The earliest the feature film would begin shooting, however, is late spring 2007, Sutherland said and added that quality control is the chief reason a 24 feature couldn't shoot during the upcoming hiatus this summer. "It was really Joel and Bob and Howard realizing that if we were going to squeeze it in during the break, we would have been rushing it," he said. "If we were going to do it, we would do it next summer. It's still a big 'if.' We would not go forward unless we thought we could do it right."

The big screen version would likely depart from the format of the series by condensing an entire day into about two hours, rather than unfolding in real time.