Lionsgate executives told Wall Street analysts this morning to expect big things from The Hunger Games, a series of four action films that the studio will release from the trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. COO Joe Drake said it was “the highest-selling film we’ve ever had” at the Cannes Film Festival and that overseas exhibitors consider it “the movie that can change their company.” Although Lionsgate wouldn’t disclose its budget for the films, Drake says Hunger Games could become an “outsized success” for Lionsgate. The studio says it bought the rights before the books became runaway bestsellers, and it has “retained the majority of the upside” in its talent and distribution deals.
On other matters following the company’s earnings report yesterday, Lionsgate says that it isn’t concerned about the public’s waning interest in 3D. “We never thought of 3D as a one-size-fits all solution to the movie business,” CEO Jon Feltheimer says. He added that Lionsgate’s recent deal to syndicate reruns of Mad Men to Netflix reflects his view that Internet streaming services can be “partners, not adversaries.” He hopes to “replicate these kinds of deals around the world.” He also told analysts to expect financial growth over the next year at Lionsgate’s struggling TV Guide Network cable channel. The company says it just renewed its carriage deal with Time Warner Cable and expects the channel to be in 80% of all pay TV homes by year end. Lionsgate says that the channel’s split screen, to meld programming with a listings guide, ”tarnished” it. But its new full-screen version is delivering higher ratings on DirecTV and Dish Network. Feltheimer also hinted at the possibility that some assets considered “non-core” may be sold. He told analysts to expect an announcement “in the near future” about an effort to simplify its business. Investors “will be pleased” he said.