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Starz Gets Disney Movie Rights

Starz Encore Group will run select future animated films from Walt Disney Pictures, starting in January 2003, as part of a distribution deal the two companies have reached.

But while the pay service will show Disney's box office hit Monsters Inc., it's unclear how many animated titles the studio will offer Starz and how many parent The Walt Disney Co. will keep for Disney Channel and its other cable and broadcast properties.

Starz — which holds pay TV rights to live-action movies produced by the Disney-owned studios Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax Films — will air Monsters Inc., which generated $253 million in domestic box-office receipts, sometime in 2003.

The pay-TV service will also have access to Finding Nemo
— from the Disney-owned computer-animation studio Pixar — which is scheduled for theatrical release in 2003, according to company executives.

The deal, however, gives Disney complete control over which of its often lucrative animated movies Starz will receive. Over the last decade, Disney's animated feature films have garnered nearly $3 billion at the box office, including 11 films that have exceeded $100 million.

Traditionally, those movies have premiered on Disney Channel or Disney-owned broadcast network ABC. Sources close to the situation said Disney would most likely continue to debut its more kids-targeted animated features on its basic-cable or broadcast channels.

Disney senior vice president of corporate communications John Dreyer term the Starz deal "an added-release window" that would not preclude Disney from offering its titles on ABC Family, Disney Channel or ABC.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.