Shooting on the follow-up to last year’s sleeper hit Now You See Me will take place in the U.S., Europe, and Asia “to capitalize on the property’s international appeal, with most of the original cast returning, and some exciting new additions,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told analysts this morning in a call to discuss the company’s fiscal Q3 earnings. He added later that execs “absolutely see it as a franchise. We’re going to add some cast to it. We see it as an ongoing situation.” Execs pushed the theme of Lionsgate as an incubator for franchises; Feltheimer says the company has “an ability to assemble and mine the richest and most diverse portfolios of [intellectual property] in the industry.” He considers upcoming films Gods Of Egypt, Chaos Walking, and Mordecai (“a character that Johnny Depp loves,” he says) as “potential franchises — later adding The Last Witch Hunter with Vin Diesel to the list plus “another one we hope to announce shortly.” Speaking of franchises, the CEO said that timetable for the Hunger Games series remains “unchanged” — with releases planned for late November this year and next — following the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. “We’re fortunate to have his incredible talent grace our Hunger Games family,” Feltheimer says. “We send our deepest condolences to all who were close to him.” The CEO also talked up the Divergent series, noting that the studio is “gearing up to begin shooting Insurgent, the second film in the franchise, this summer in order to make our March 2015 release date.”
This was one of a few interesting tid-bits that CEO Jon Feltheimer dropped in his conference call with analysts this morning. The studio’s been “approached in two territories about potential theme park opportunities” for the action film …
The premium video service is performing well financially and is “going to start looking at original series,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told analysts this morning. Co-owned by his company, Viacom, and MGM, “we’re capable of creating some cool original content.” And it should help EPIX as it negotiates carriage deals with cable and satellite companies. “One or two great scripted shows can drive an entire channel or network, so they’d consider it a plus for us.” Indeed, Feltheimer says, execs are engaged in “pretty significant conversations with [pay TV distributors] who look at EPIX as a channel that they can use in a smart way” as they craft streaming TV Everywhere packages. “We’ve got a fantastic theatrical line-up” that includes “a lot of original stuff, but not scripted.”
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Legendary Entertainment‘s Thomas Tull continues kicking tires all over Hollywood right now. He’s planned a meeting for later this week with the Lionsgate team including chief Jon Feltheimer and Summit-turned-Lionsgate film co-chairman Rob Friedman who’d like to mitigate their feature film risks which worry Wall Street. “It’s an interesting choice and a new entry,” a source tells me. “He really respects Rob and Felt.” I already told you over the weekend that Tull has met twice with NBCUniversal chief and Comcast #2 Steve Burke over at NBCU and that four studios were in this bake-off. Well, now add Lionsgate. Sony is still in the running “because he loves their business and loves the Sony people and really likes Michael Lynton”. So, too, Fox because Tull “loves” Jim Gianopulos. “But if Jeff Robinov goes there it may not happen,” a source told me today. (Robinov months before he parted ways with Warner Bros told me, “My relationship with Tull is pretty good. It’s had its ups and downs. I’d like to see them stay.”) As for Warner Bros, Tull for weeks now has begun every meeting with a studio by pledging that he’s “not talking to Warner Bros and definitely intending to move on”. But the studios tell me they’re convinced that’s just a negotiating ploy and if the right deal was offered he’d stay.
So strange to hear the words ‘love’ and ‘like’ tossed around so much when describing Hollywood’s always complicated relationships. Says an insider, “Thomas is all about, ‘Who do I like?’ He likes Fox, he loves both Sony people, he loves Universal and loves Ron Meyer and the Comcast guys. He loves Alan Horn but Disney doesn’t need him.” As I’ve already reported, both Disney and Paramount respectfully passed. Remember that media frenzy I predicted? Tonight, The Hollywood Reporter erroneously reported that Tull has pared down his list to Universal and Sony — not true. Variety tonight inaccurately reported that only Universal, Sony and Fox are still in the running — also not true. Neither media outlet had a clue about the forthcoming Legendary-Lionsgate meeting.
I’ve also learned exclusively what Tull wants to offer and what he wants in return for a new deal as he makes his way around the studios. Summed up one studio mogul who heard Tull’s pitch: “His appetite is significant. It”s what he thinks Legendary is worth.” I’ve learned that Tull starts off talking conceptually — not specifics. ”Thomas is looking for a 360 media deal. He wants films, parks, TV. He wants a big partner, an even more all-encompassing deal to leverage his IP library of films, comics, and soon TV and license out the content he owns.”
But let’s get real: Tull has very little IP to speak of and the studios want Legendary mostly for what it will finance for them. After building up his war chest and closing on $720M in financing in 2011 alone and more in 2012, Tull has “has access to billions more through various revolver accounts and other levers he can pull,” a source tells me. “He did $443M of pure equity with Waddell & Reed in a monster deal in December 2012. He has equity and financing for $272M. And he has a huge cash-rich business with hit after hit after hit over the years. That’s a lot of leverage.”
Overall, Tull wants a much improved deal over his present one at Warner Bros. “He feels he was paying too high a distribution fee at Warner Bros for Pacific Rim and Godzilla which Legendary is making,” another source tells me. ”He’s paying over 10% fees for those movies. That’s high relative to what’s usually given the people who put up the money. He wants to pay 8% for the 10 to 12 films Legendary will be fully financing.”
I’ve also learned that “Tull is looking to keep certain rights for the movies he finances, like his own Netflix deals”. And that Tull “also wants a producer deal for himself so he gets compensated from the studios separate from paying a distribution deal to the studios”. For movies he’s co-financing for the studio, he wants more involvement in the development process through shooting, post-production, marketing and distribution.
Of course, Tull may love or like almost everyone atop the studios, but not everyone loves or likes him. “He’s sitting in these studio meetings pitching his track record that Legendary-associated productions had $7+B grosses worldwide at the box office,” one source tells me. “But I’m thinking, ‘Aren’t those just the movies that were offered you or weren’t offered you? Are you joking?’” Says another source: “Thomas takes credit for stuff he hasn’t generated. He has that reputation.”
Jon Feltheimer‘s new contract runs to May 22, 2018 and guarantees the Lionsgate CEO $1.5M a year salary plus a performance bonus targeted to match, according to a company SEC filing this morning. The board also will make sure that he remains focused on boosting the stock price, which is up more than 127% over the last 12 months. If the bonus tops $1.5M, he can collect the extra amount in fully vested stock. He also will receive 200,000 restricted stock units and an option to buy 2M shares. On the first trading day of January 2014 he has an option to buy 250,000 shares at the day’s closing price — plus an option to buy 1M shares either at that price or $30 apiece, which ever is higher. There’s also complicated formula that governs what additional shares he can buy depending on the stock price. And, of course, Feltheimer would collect generous severance terms if there’s a change in control at Lionsgate that results in him losing his job.
“We believed in Jon’s early vision of how to best position Lionsgate to grow and adapt to a rapidly changing industry,” says board chairman Mark Rachesky. “He has successfully executed on a business plan which required discipline, patience and investment in all of the Company’s key business segments in order to create highly valuable content and long-term value for shareholders.”
Here’s the company’s release:
The Lionsgate CEO gently touched some cable industry hot buttons in a speech today to marketing execs. He said that cable could be left behind as viewers increasingly turn to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets for entertainment unless operators improve user interfaces, offer dynamic ad insertion for on-demand shows, and begin to sell movies and programs directly to consumers. “These days, an educated consumer may not be our best friend because an educated consumer knows that if you and I don’t give him what he wants, there are a million other places he can get it,” Jon Feltheimer told the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing. “And nobody has to tell you that once a consumer has left your ecosystem, it’s very hard to get him back.”
The production company’s shares dove more than 8% in initial after-hours trading — but recovered to a more modest loss later — after it released what appears to be a dreary report. Lionsgate had a net loss of $1.7M in the last three months of the year vs a $6M loss at the end of 2010, on revenues of $343M, down 23.6%. Analysts expected revenues to be much higher, at $358.8M. The company’s net loss, at 1 cent a share, also contrasts with the 9 cent profit that the Street anticipated. Lionsgate says that revenues suffered from the lack of a wide theatrical release in the quarter; last year it had three. As a result, motion picture revenues fell 28.6% to $233.3M. TV production was down by 6.8% to $89.7M. Home entertainment also struggled with revenues from movie releases of $128.9M (-28.8%) — slightly offset by $34M for TV shows (+108.6%). Lionsgate said it made $7.3M from its 31,2% stake in EPIX, an improvement from the $11.1M loss on the investment in the same quarter in 2010. But that was somewhat offset by the $2.1M loss on its 51% of TV Guide Network a slight increase from the $2M loss last year.
The film and TV company had a net loss of $24.6M, an improvement from its $29.7M loss in the quarter last year, on revenues of $358.1M, down 21.5%. That revenue figure was far below the $421.5M that analysts expected. And the net loss, at 18 cents a share, was below the 13 cent loss the Street had forecast. The bottom line could have looked even worse: Lionsgate included the $11.0M it collected from its sale of Maple Pictures. The company also was able to add $6.1M from its 31.2% stake in EPIX vs a $19.8M loss from last year’s quarter. Lionsgate says that it suffered from “underperformance of theatrical films in the quarter” — where releases included the Conan The Barbarian remake, Warrior, and Abduction – as well as “timing of DVD releases which offset gains in the Company’s television and digital businesses.” The movie operation generated $218.9M in revenues, down 36%.
Lionsgate said in a regulatory filing today that Mark Rachesky, the former Carl Icahn protege and the mini-major’s largest shareholder, has been appointed co-chairman of the board, a title he will share with current CEO Jon Feltheimer. The …
Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer sure talks as though the company’s looking to create a TV channel around Tyler Perry — Tyler TV – even though he says he “can’t comment” on a report about it. He told analysts this morning that “we strongly support” the idea of bringing Perry to “exciting new platforms.” That could include a “not fully distributed (cable) channel that we could buy” or nesting Perry at “a channel we already have. … We have a lot of options if we choose to go down that path.” The New York Times says this morning that the company is considering rebranding its struggling TV Guide Network, buying a channel such as Gospel Broadcasting Network, or teaming with Comcast, which promised federal officials who approved its acquisition of NBCUniversal that it would beef up programming for minority audiences.
Also on the call, Lionsgate executives talked up their plans for The Hunger Games. The first film in what’s likely to be a four-film series completes principal photography on Labor Day weekend ahead of a March 2012 release. But the studio says it won’t release the second film until Thanksgiving 2013 because it wants to take advantage of the big holiday season audiences — and to give itself time to work on the script and marketing plans. The productions won’t necessarily be filmed back-to-back, although there’s a chance that the second and third installments will be.
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.”
BREAKING: A press conference is skedded for tomorrow morning, with Lionsgate co-chairman/CEO Jon Feltheimer and Grupo Televisa chairman/CEO Emilio Azcarraga. Lionsgate will team with Spanish-language media company Televisa to launch Pantelion Films, a joint venture that will target the fast-growing market of Hispanic moviegoers and release 8 to …
Welcome to the real-life game of Survivor: Wall Street. Lionsgate management tonight is trying to outwit, outplay, and outlast Carl Icahn before he effects a hostile takeover of the movie/TV studio for his son Brett. Lionsgate tonight announced it’s putting into place a “Shareholder Rights Plan” — i.e. a poison pill defense — to cap Icahn at 38% of its stock (he is currently at 37.9%) so he can’t do a “creeping bid” through open market purchases like he did today or private market transactions. ”If he wants control of the Company, he should make a bid that is fair to all shareholders along the lines of a permitted bid described in the press release below,” a studio insider tells me.
Today, Icahn’s stake rose to 37.9%, or 44.8M shares, of Lionsgate. With 12+% more stock, he can become its majority stockholder. And then Lionsgate’s 12-member board, and the studio’s management team of Jon Feltheimer and Michael Burns, all have a target on their backs. Icahn’s $7 a share tender offer expired at midnight Wednesday, and left him with a 33.9% stake in Lionsgate. (Icahn Now Owns 33.9% Of Lionsgate) Today, he acquired an additional 4% more of the company by buying on the open market. Lionsgate’s immediate reaction was effectively to enact a poison pill defense. But it enacted a poison pill months ago — to prevent Icahn from accumulating over 20% of Lionsgate stock through his tender offer — and Canadian regulators nixed that measure. Can that happen again?
Here is tonight’s Lionsgate statement:
SANTA MONICA, Calif., and VANCOUVER, British Columbia, July 1, 2010 — Lionsgate (the “Company”) today announced that its Board of Directors has adopted a Shareholder Rights Plan that is designed to encourage the fair and equal treatment of Lionsgate’s shareholders in connection with any initiative to acquire effective control of the Company.