WB launches film foray with $160 mil deal

NEW YORK — The WB Network is going to the movies — big time.

Although New Line and the WB were still discussing the fine print on Thursday, WB has agreed to pay at least $75 million for New Line’s “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and its two forthcoming sequels in a 10-year shared window with Turner Broadcasting’s TBS and TNT.

The total license fee for all three could end up at $160 million or more, depending on the box-office performance of the sequels; “Fellowship of the Ring” has already grossed $258 million, and it’s still tracking.

The “Rings” transaction is a family affair because the WB, New Line and Turner are all divisions of AOL Time Warner. But the deal is by far the biggest movie buy ever engineered by the WB. Insiders say the WB is so juiced by the pickup of the “Rings” trilogy that it’s planning to go after more theatrical movies in their first network window.