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 Spanish-Language SVOD Service Bowing First Original Program

Lionsgate Feb. 21 announced that its Spanish-language streaming video service Pantaya is set to launch its first-ever original scripted series, “El Juego de las Llaves” (“The Game of Keys”) this fall.

Production with Hemisphere Media Group is already underway in Mexico City on the 10-episode comedy, which will debut in the U.S. on Pantaya and internationally in more than 200 countries on Amazon Prime Video.

“El Juego de las Llaves” is a comedy about long-term monogamy, self-realization and desire. The series follows four long-lasting couples who are friends that decide to swing. In the comedic aftermath, each character must face the impact of the decision they have made on their relationship and personal outlook on sexuality.

The cast includes Maite Perroni (“Cuidado Con El Angel,” “Rebelde”), Humberto Busto (“El Chapo, Oso Polar), Marimar Vega (La Boda de ValentinaAmor de mis Amores), Sebastián Zurita (Ciudadano Buelna, Cómo cortar a tu Patán), Horacio Pancheri (Un Camino Hacia el Destino), Fabiola Campomanes (“Teresa,” “Mi Corazon Es Tuyo”), Hugo Catalan (“Falsa Identidad”), and Ela Velden (“Caer en Tentación,” “Despertar Contigo”).

“When we approached Corazón Films, which has been a distribution partner on Lionsgate films in Mexico, we knew we wanted to do something premium, original and enticing that viewers wouldn’t get anywhere else,” Paul Presburger, CEO of Pantaya, said in a statement.

 “We anticipate ‘El Juego de las Llaves’ to be appointment-viewing for our core audience in the U.S., and is unlike anything seen in the space before,” said Mario Almeida, VP of development, programming, and acquisitions at Pantaya.