Lionsgate Vice Chairman: Sony Distribution Deal Increases Margins; Says Theatrical Window Forever Changed

Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns says he expects to see increased consolidation of marketing and distribution efforts within the home entertainment market.

Speaking March 9 on the virtual Deutsche Bank confab, Burns was asked about last month’s decision to consolidate North American DVD/Blu-ray Disc distribution with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Sony will handle distribution of Lionsgate’s packaged-media releases in the U.S. and Canada beginning in July. The studio’s North American distribution has been handled by the former 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, which was acquired in 2019 by Disney.

“It will be good for us,” Burns said. “We’re all in the same [retail] business, which is to try to make as much money as possible. So, if you can consolidate operations and squeeze a little bit of margin here and there by having significant volume, which gives you that opportunity, I think you’re going to see more of that [in the industry].”

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When asked about ongoing efforts to rejigger the traditional theatrical window, Burns said he believes the windows will continue to change and have “changed forever in many ways.”

“That’s good for us,” he said. “I like the prospects for the motion picture business right now. You have limited supply and increased demand in that business.”

Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns

Lionsgate movies in the pipeline include back-to-back “John Wick” releases, among other action movies; Borderlands; a Monopoly-themed movie with Hasbro; and The Hunger Games prequel Snakes and Songbirds. 

The executive said changing windows with established major theatrical franchises such as “Hunger Games,” The Twilight Saga and “John Wick” diminish the titles’ upside in future retail channels. For the movies that don’t do well at the box office, shortening windows to 17 days (or three weekends), Burns said going straight to the consumer is “a really good thing” as opposed to waiting three months or longer before electronic sellthrough, VOD or DVD.

“There are a lot of advantages to having flexibility,” he said. “We’re not going to commit to one release pattern or another. The movie business is a mixture of art and science. And so we’re going to look at each movie individually and go where we can make the most money.”


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