Marvel Studios has engineered its first major TV deal since going independent in 2005, preselling the cable rights to Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk to FX along with three more superhero movies still to be determined.
Paramount will open Iron Man, with Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role and Samuel L. Jackson as Marvel superhero Nick Fury, on May 2. Universal kicks off "Incredible Hulk," starring Edward Norton, on June 13. According to Variety, although Paramount and Universal are not involved in the basic-cable sale, they still retain the pay TV rights. Showtime has Iron Man and HBO gets "Incredible Hulk" through the nets' output deals with Paramount and Universal, respectively.
As with most of the basic-cable pre-buys, the net agrees to pony up a license fee that hovers at around 11% of the domestic gross, a figure that cuts off at $200 million. If all five movies end up as $200 million-plus blockbusters -- a very big if, of course -- FX would pay the maximum $22 million apiece for a grand total of $110 million. That's a gigantic license fee, but lots of people watch big-hit movies on cable TV, so there wouldn't be any complaints from FX.