Lionsgate’s Joe Drake: ‘We Are Very Bullish on the Theatrical Market’

With Hollywood studios in the pandemic era embracing shorter theatrical windows in order to accelerate direct-to-consumer access through premium VOD, home entertainment and streaming, Lionsgate is remaining loyal to exhibitors while also accepting new opportunities to monetize movies.

Speaking May 27 on the Lionsgate fiscal call, Joe Drake, chairman of the motion picture group, said the studio is approaching each movie’s distribution strategy based the economics of the day as the industry moves beyond the pandemic.

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Lionsgate’s Joe Drake

Recent release Spiral: From the Book of Saw topped the seating-challenged domestic box office on consecutive weekends as part of a 21-day exclusive theatrical window, followed by concurrent access via premium VOD.

The June 16 release The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, starring Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek and Samuel L. Jackson, will have a 45-day theatrical window, followed by direct-to-consumer access.

In the fiscal year, Lionsgate released 10 movies, four straight to PVOD (The Secret: Dare to Dream, Antebellum, Fatale, Barb and Star Go Vista Del Mar), one to Netflix (Desperados), and five in theaters and PVOD (Words on Bathroom Walls, Fatale, Pinocchio, Chaos Walking and The Courier).

“We certainly have a lot happening in windows, and we have really taken the approach … to look at each film as its own piece of business and how that is best served,” Drake said.

Motion picture segment revenue in the quarter declined about 25% to $292.4 million, compared with $393.3 million in the prior-year quarter, and segment profit declined almost 40% to $61.6 million, compared with $101.2 million last year.

“I think what you’re going to see, and certainly what we’ve experienced, is that we love the theatrical business, we’re working very close with exhibitors, which have been great partners working with us,” Drake said, adding that Lionsgate is working on finding the right way to collaborate with exhibitors, help support the theatrical market, while maximizing the value of its titles.

“I think that’s going to continue for a bit and we’ll see where that settles out,” Drake said. “We are very bullish on the theatrical market. You’re going to see a really big weekend this weekend.”

Indeed, Disney and Paramount Pictures are separately releasing titles Cruella and oft-delayed A Quiet Place Part 2 — tentpole titles Hollywood hopes will drive moviegoers back to the cineplex.

Lionsgate in the current FY 2022 plans to release upwards of 60% of the theatrical slate it had in 2019 and 2020, with distribution back to normal in FY 2023.

“We sort of approach each film agnostically and look at that moment in time, look at release dates like a competition, and the best way to monetize it,” said CEO Jon Feltheimer. “It gives us a lot of flexibility, both from a dating perspective [and] it also gives us more flexibility in terms of how we’re going to ultimately monetize [a movie].”

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