Driven by the phenomenal success of its blockbuster franchise Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Summit Entertainment’s Now You See Me – the sleeper hit heist film which grossed a whopping $235M internationally — Lionsgate announced this …
‘Catching Fire,’ ‘Now You See Me’ Drive Lionsgate To Become Billion Dollar Baby 2nd Year Running; Company Box Office Take To Date: $2.25 Billion Worldwide
Management’s vote of confidence this morning follows a three month period when Lionsgate‘s shares have declined more than 20%. The company says that the board declared a quarterly dividend of five cents a share payable on February 7 to shareholders of record at the end of 2013. “Our outstanding film and TV performance continues to translate into strong financial results,” CEO Jon Feltheimer and Vice Chairman Michael Burns say in a statement. “We’re pleased that our financial strength and excellent visibility enable us to offer our first quarterly dividend, returning value to our shareholders as we continue to grow the Company.” The company adds in an SEC filing that on Tuesday the board raised its stock repurchase plan to $300M, including $65M that’s already been repurchased under the previous authorization. Although the dividend is relatively small, it should enable Lionsgate to “broaden out the investor base to include funds which require dividends,” Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil says. He adds that it’s “extremely rare” for a movie producer to offer a dividend and “speaks to the remarkable trajectory this company has seen over the last few years.”
SANTA MONICA, CA December 11, 2013 – Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) announced today that it has acquired the feature film rights to internationally acclaimed author Dr. Reza Aslan’s provocative New York Times bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.
Erik Feig, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group’s President of Production, said, “Reza Aslan has written a remarkable book that manages to bring the ancient world into contemporary relief and to make a timeless story very timely. We are excited to create this uniquely cinematic and immersive world for moviegoers to experience.”
Dr. Aslan commented, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Lionsgate. Their vision for Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is aligned with my objective in writing the book, which was to illuminate the life of Jesus in a humanistic, as opposed to religious, context.”
Named as one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, Zealot challenges long-held assumptions about Jesus. Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Dr. Aslan sheds light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived. The book was published by Random House Publishing Group in July 2013.
6TH UPDATE: The staggering grosses turned in this weekend by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen, and the collective strong box office that will likely result in a record five-day Thanksgiving weekend come along at a fortuitous time for the movie business. Why? Because fear has ruled the roost lately, and these numbers on a diversity of mostly smart films shows clearly that if you give an audience a story well told, they will show up.
The performance of Catching Fire and Frozen are all the more remarkable if you consider that both of these films are squarely driven by female heroines. Conventional wisdom is that the marketplace could never support more than one female-driven film, because while gals will see guy movies, it doesn’t work the other way. Well, it worked big time — both films crushed the 5-day Thanksgiving domestic gross record – and it happened shortly after another female driven film, Gravity, crossed the $600 million mark in global gross this weekend. That movie would not have been made if not for a maverick advocate and you could make the same argument for a drama about Somali pirates, Captain Phillips, which has passed the $100 million mark domestically and will crack $200 million worldwide on a $55 million budget. You can look at The Best Man Holiday and Last Vegas (CBS Films’ biggest grossing film ever) and find similarly encouraging signs; good movies made for a price, finding crossover audiences.
This is important, coming just on the heels of that Sony investors meeting held on the Culver City lot. It was a powwow that on the surface seemed to be a capitulation to cranky shareholders like Daniel Loeb, who, as George Clooney said, whined about two summer flops but betrayed a complete lack of understanding of how the movie business works. This weekend was a good reminder that, few legal businesses are capable of creating cash as quickly as blockbusters do. The people who make those bets are like shrewd riverboat gamblers, and if the current climate makes them fearful, they will not make good films. They are only good if they’ve got swagger and cockiness, and it would be nice to imagine a weekend like this serves as a reminder of what happens when smart risks are taken and good movies are the result.
When Sony responded to Loeb’s criticism by announcing plans to shed $100 million in overhead and trimming back its film slates to instead put more chips on TV projects, some in town wondered if Japan was planning to sell its showbiz division. Nonsense, say insiders I trust.
Shares are -7.7% at midday, and that’s partly due to the opening weekend performance of Hunger Games: Catching Fire which grossed $160.6M at domestic box offices and $147M internationally. The consensus among Wall Street analysts was that the film would see $165M domestically, with some going as high as $175M. So the weekend was a slight disappointment. But most aren’t worried about the film’s prospects. With strong results overseas, Catching Fire is “already one-third the way towards our [global box office] ultimate of $900M after only 3 days in release,” B. Riley’s Eric Wold says. Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil says that the international performance “will really matter for the title to have material upside…and given the current trajectory we believe that this will be the case.” So why the drop in the stock price? Some investors figure that Lionsgate has peaked for now, and will lose buzz as people begin to focus on its next major film, Divergent, scheduled to open on March 21. Cowen and Co’s Doug Creutz says that while he’s “optimistic” that Divergent will become a franchise “we continue to expect a much lower level of performance than for Hunger Games” forecasting that the sci-fi action film based on the bestselling novel by Veronica Roth will generate $130M at domestic box offices.
7TH UPDATE: The 1 PM football games are starting, so I will be brief. International numbers for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire are pouring in now, and they are as good as the domestic numbers. The film has grossed $146.6 million in 63 territories, which puts its global opening weekend gross at $307.7 in 65 territories. That’s 45% better than the $211.8 million worldwide that The Hunger Games grossed in its opening weekend. That puts the film halfway to matching the $286.3 million international gross of that original film. It opened in the top spot in nearly all markets, more than doubling The Hunger Games in most markets according to Rentrak. Germany and Denmark tripled their opening weekend numbers while UK, Netherlands and Sweden were 2.5 times better. Russia was 1.5 times better than the original’s opening. Meanwhile WB’s Gravity opened to $35.5 million in China. Like I said, a good weekend for everyone except Carl Icahn.
6TH UPDATE, 9:29 am PST: Well, Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hit the Saturday numbers Deadline reported in timely fashion for insomniacs, and the film is now expected to hit $161.1 million. Besides trouncing the competition, and beating Twilight Saga: Full Moon for biggest November opening, how does it rate for other records? According to Rentrak, here’s the deal: Catching Fire generated the 2nd best debut of 2013 behind Iron Man 3‘s $174.1 million; it marks the fourth best opening weekend of all time, trailing The Avengers‘ $207 million, Iron Man 3 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2‘s $169.2M. Catching Fire did better than The Dark Knight Rises‘ $160.9 million. In IMAX, Catching Fire’s domestic weekend gross is an estimated $12.6M on 347 screens, also a record for November 3-day launch as it passed Skyfall‘s $12.5 million. It certainly positions the film to surpass the $408 million grossed domestically by the first film, given there’s a long holiday weekend coming up. Lionsgate gets two more bites at the apple, as it is telling the three-book tale in four movies in a blatant cash grab. I have yet to see where this dilution of a crackling three novel story benefits anyone other than the studio when it is stretched out into another film (I think it hurt The Twilight Saga, because the third installment, Bella’s pregnancy, was excruciating.) Author Suzanne Collins is in the mix on these films, so maybe they’ll add stuff. But if these authors wanted to tell trilogies in four installments, they would have written four books, right?
Analyzing far in Catching Fire‘s rear view mirror, the other major release, Delivery Man, didn’t deliver much at all as counter-programming. Maybe the film (studio insiders said it cost $22 million) would have fared better had it opened one week ago against The Best Man Holiday, because clearly Catching Fire consumed most of the oxygen this weekend. Maybe it would have been better to simply avoid such a competitive time period. Thor: The Dark World saw a 61% drop since last weekend, and The Best Man Holiday was off 58%, showing Catching Fire fatigue. How are the Oscar films faring? 12 Years A Slave is running out of steam, Dallas Buyers Club is working in core areas and breakout potential seems dubious. Nebraska bowed just okay and Book Thief a little less than that while Philomena got off to a more encouraging start. The next big family film, Disney’s Frozen, did great in one house and opens wide November 27. The other animation juggernaut, Despicable Me 2, got a bit of new life in 295 theaters, squeaking out $342,000. Speaking of the record books, the $76 million film is at $916.5 million worldwide gross. Universal’s all-time record holder is Jurassic Park, which grossed $118 million worldwide in a 3D re-release which put it just over the $1 billion mark. In order to crack that record, Despicable Me 2 will need to open in China, which should be in the cards but hasn’t yet been solidified. Here is an updated look at how the Top 10 films will finish the weekend:
1) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
PG-13/ Lionsgate/ New/ Runs: 4,163/ Friday: $70.1 million; Saturday: $52.8 million. Sunday: $36.9 million. Weekend Total: $160.6 million. Per-screen average: $36,586. Total domestic gross: $160.6 million.
EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate and Gigi Pritzker’s Odd Lot Entertainment has acquired Spitfire, a pitch by Grant Thompson to tell the fact-based story of Louise Smith, a rebellious firebrand who takes the stock car racing scene of the 1950s by storm with her steadfast driving skills and changes the fate of racing forever. Female drivers were surprisingly instrumental in the founding of NASCAR just after WWII. A forgotten forerunner of contemporary female drivers like Danica Patrick, Smith was the quintessential small-town girl with big dreams who smashed through the gender preconceptions of the time to ultimately race at the famed Daytona Beach road course and helped secure the initial funding for what would become the billion-dollar sports giant NASCAR.
Nicky Weinstock of Invention Films is producing. NASCAR is exec producing. NASCAR holds the key to a vast potential racing audience, but it is stingy about the films it gets involved in. The last big one was the Adam McKay-directed Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, which starred Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen. Obviously the question is whether that largely male audience will turn out for a female-themed racing film, but the formula worked well for Sony and Penny Marshall in A League Of Their Own.