Joe Drake Signs New Multiyear Agreement as Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Chair

Lionsgate Oct. 11 announced it has entered into a new long-term employment agreement with veteran Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Chair Joe Drake.
Joe Drake (photo courtesy of Lionsgate)
The deal comes as Drake and his team have assembled a pending movie slate that includes John Wick: Chapter Four, starring Keanu Reeves in the latest installment of one of the studio’s premier action franchises; and Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, the prequel to the $3 billion blockbuster box office franchise that Drake helped launch in 2012.
In addition to Now You See Me 3 and Expendables 4, the reimagining of the classic Dirty Dancing, starring and produced by Jennifer Grey, there is Ballerina, which expands the “John Wick” universe with a female-led action thriller starring Knives Out’s Ana de Armas.
Finally, Lionsgate is releasing the Graham King-produced Michael Jackson event film.
In addition to the tentpole releases, under Drake’s leadership Lionsgate has continued to build its multiplatform distribution business and has launched a fast-growing direct-to-stream film division.
“Joe and his team continue to execute our core mission of creating great intellectual properties with a strong slate of tentpole films,” CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. “He is an entrepreneur with strong talent relationships and a firm grasp of the global theatrical marketplace, and he will continue to be a great partner in helping us move the company forward.”
Drake returned to Lionsgate in October 2017 when it acquired Good Universe, the production and distribution company that he co-founded and ran with partner Nathan Kahane. In 2019, Lionsgate achieved one of its best years ever at the box office led by John Wick: Chapter 3 and Knives Out. During his previous tenure as head of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group from 2007 to 2012, Drake and his team launched the successful “Hunger Games” and “Expendables” franchises, and multiple Oscar winner Precious.
In addition to Good Universe, Drake also launched Mandate Pictures. At Good Universe, he shepherded the company’s overall business and was responsible for building key financial, creative and strategic partnerships.  He partnered with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver’s Point Grey Pictures on a series of critically acclaimed comedy hits, including Neighbors and The Night Before as part of a collaboration that he has continued at Lionsgate. As head of Mandate Pictures from 2004 to 2007, Drake produced the Academy Award-winning Juno, the Golden Globe nominated Hope Springs50/50 and the Seth Rogen comedy This Is the End.

Lionsgate Eyeing Consumer-Direct Movie Option While Pledging Loyalty to Theatrical

With studios increasing distribution of select titles direct to consumers in the home while theaters remain largely shuttered worldwide, Lionsgate has dabbled in the PVOD window, releasing I Still Believe to consumers just weeks after its March 12 theatrical debut.

On a May 21 fiscal call, Joe Drake, chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, was asked if the studio would consider distributing titles directly rather than through third-party platforms such as iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and Amazon, among others.

Drake, who said Lionsgate remains bullish on the theatrical business model, said the D2C concept, like a lot of the distribution status-quo during the COVID-19 pandemic, is being analyzed and tweaked, while remaining in solidarity with the theatrical window.

“One of the things [Lionsgate] prides itself on is being flexible and agile,” Drake said. “We still believe theatrical is a big driver of our business, and will continue to play aggressively in that space.”

Lionsgate’s first theatrical release is slated for Aug. 21 with horror film Antebellum.

At the same time, the executive said that when the studio sees an opportunity for distributing a movie direct to the consumer, it won’t hesitate. Drake didn’t directly answer whether that would include bypassing existing transactional VOD platforms in favor of Starz or another proprietary platform.

Lionsgate currently releases about 30 movies a year through digital channels, a strategy Drake said the studio would expand, but not at the expense of exhibition partners.

“I don’t think any company has done a better job exploiting niches and opportunities with audiences, and we’ll continue to do that,” he said.

Separately, Lionsgate said it is actively working with credit card companies such as American Express to include free Starz OTT service as part of a promotion. The studio/distributor currently has a Redbox promotion by which new Starz subscribers get nine free one-day kiosk disc rentals at a $5 monthly fee for 90 days.

“We think some of [those] consumer bases [with Redbox] overlap. We think there’s a great partnership there. We’ll continue to talk to almost anybody,” said Kevin Beggs, chairman of Lionsgate Television Group.

Lionsgate expects to generate upwards of 15 million combined Starz OTT, StarzPlay, Spanish-language Pantaya and StarzArabia subscribers by the end of the fiscal year. It ended the quarter with 10 million.

Lionsgate Partners with Seth Rogen’s Production Company

Lionsgate has announced a joint venture with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, partner James Weaver and their Point Grey Pictures to produce multi-platform content.

PGP content includes BlockersNeighbors, Sausage PartyThe Night Before, This is the End, the television shows “Future Man,” “Black Monday,” and “Preacher,” as well as Lionsgate’s pending romantic comedy Long Shot, starring Rogen and Charlize Theron, which won the Audience Award in the Headliners section of SXSW and will be released in the U.S. and select markets on May 3 before expanding worldwide.

Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron

PGP will continue to operate autonomously under Rogen, Goldberg and Weaver’s leadership while working closely with Lionsgate’s executive teams to develop content for the company’s motion picture, scripted and unscripted television, digital and location-based entertainment businesses.

Subscribe HERE for FREE Daily Newsletter!

“Seth, Evan and James are visionary entrepreneurs and three of the greatest storytellers in the business,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. “We look forward to a partnership that turbocharges the continued ramp up of our film and television slates, while creating exciting opportunities across our entire portfolio of businesses.”

“From our days at Mandate and Good Universe [which Lionsgate acquired in 2017] to our experience working with them here at Lionsgate, we have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Seth, Evan and James on some of their most iconic films and we could not ask for more incredible or collaborative creative partners,” Joe Drake, motion picture group chairman, and Nathan Kahane, president of motion pictures added in a joint statement.

Drake and Kahane’s relationship with the Point Grey team included collaboration on comedies NeighborsThis is the End, and The Night Before, as well as the dramedy 50/50, Academy Award-nominated The Disaster Artist (starring James Franco), and Blockers, among others.

The collaboration is the latest in a string of partnerships Lionsgate has formed with content creators, including the recent pact with 3 Arts Entertainment, the first-ever deal between a major Hollywood studio and a talent management and production company.