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 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 Blockers, Neighbors, Sausage Party, The 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.
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.
“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 Neighbors, This 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.