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Starz, Fox, Sony Pony Cash to Roths Studio

Former Walt Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth has lined up Starz Encore Media Group LLC, Fox Entertainment Group and Sony Pictures as distributors and investors in his new Revolution Studios, officials said last week.

The three companies will ante up $250 million for 25 percent equity in Revolution, which will focus on theatrical production and Internet-content development. The trio will divvy up distribution rights to a $3 billion slate of films.

Starz Encore will put up the largest amount-reportedly $150 million-for the biggest share of the three. The deal marks the first time both Starz Encore and its parent, John Malone's Liberty Media Group, will invest in a Hollywood studio.

Sony, paying $75 million upfront, will distribute movies theatrically and in home video in North America.

Starz Encore gets domestic pay TV rights and use of the Revolution films on its 12-channel digital "Super Pak." The programmer also gets full subscription-video-on-demand rights to Revolution's films as part of its deal.

Fox, for $25 million, gets all U.S. television rights for theatricals, and it will air them on the Fox broadcast network, on Fox cable networks and in syndication.

Fox can determine if the movies get broadcast-window debuts on Fox or on cable properties Fox Family Channel and FX, a Fox Entertainment spokesman said.

Starz Encore chairman John Sie said he and Liberty have shied away from Hollywood stakes in the past because "it's a risky roller-coaster ride." But Roth has a successful track record producing high-grossing films, and Revolution has secured guaranteed distribution outlets for its movies.

As a result, "John [Malone] endorsed this deal fully," Sie said.

In addition, the Revolution deal "continues Starz!'s strategic vision" of having theatricals form its core and its major appeal to its pay TV customers, according to Sie.