EXCLUSIVE: Hunger Games tribute Leven Rambin will be busy this summer filming a pair of indie dramas. The actress who played Glimmer in Lionsgate’s blockbuster YA adaptation has lined up roles in Seven Minutes, rookie writer-director Jay Martin’s about a young athlete (Luke Mitchell) whose serious injury leads him to break bad, and Walter, first-time helmer Anna Mastro’s tale of a guy (Andrew J. West) who believes he’s the son of God and thinks he is destined to decide the fate of everyone he encounters. Rambin plays a love interest to the male leads in both films. The actress, whose credits also include Chasing Mavericks and an Emmy-nominated dual role on All My Children, co-stars in Fox’s upcoming sequel Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. She is repped by CAA, The Schiff Company and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern.
After the six major studios wrapped up their turns in front of the CinemaCon convention goers with 20th Century Fox earlier today, it was Lionsgate‘s turn to carry the flag for the indie sector, even though NATO’s John Fithian said last year that in Lionsgate we are seeing the birth of the “seventh major studio”. And although some of the speakers during the company’s relatively brief presentation this afternoon took up that mantle, Lionsgate in its sizzle reel actually touted the fact that they are the only non-major to actually go over $1 billion in a single year — certainly thanks to the dynamic duo of Summit’s Twilight finales and The Hunger Games, which became the third-highest-grossing film of 2012 with more than $400 million domestically. So are they are a major? A mini-major? A true independent? Or just a money-minting film company with a couple of franchises the real majors would kill for (and in the case of Twilight actually passed on — ouch).
But as befits any wannabe major, a spiffier, more corporate logo was in order, and as Deadline reported earlier they debuted it for the theatre owners here in Las Vegas. As distribution head Richie Fay put it during his turn onstage, “Lionsgate is an overnight success that was 12 years in the making”.
As far as the presentation went, Lionsgate certainly took an independent route from the way the majors have behaved all week, offering a musical-chairs lineup of executives taking their turn in front of delegates who crowded into the Colosseum to check out the product. In addition to Fay, we also heard from CEO and co-founder Jon Feltheimer, co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Rob Friedman and AMC theatres exec Elizabeth Frank, who pointed out the company released 20 major films in 2012 and led the field 11 separate weeks. She said her company was looking forward to the 17 movies on tap this year and many of them were showcased for the first time over the course of the 80-minute show emceed by comedian Kevin Hart.
The stock price is down more than 13% this morning following the release of disappointing financials for the quarter that ended in February — including sales of The Hunger Games trilogy that CEO Richard Robinson says were “significantly lower than our expectations.” Scholastic ended the period with a $20.1M loss, vs a $10.3M loss in the period last year, on revenues of $380.5M, -18.5%. The revenue figure was short of analysts’ expectation for $384.2M. The drop from last year was largely due to “lower sales of the Hunger Games trilogy vs last year, when we benefited from an extraordinarily strong book revenues in advance of the film release in March,” Robinson told analysts this morning. The publisher also says that it was hurt by local school systems that shifted spending from books to professional development and training materials and digital products including iPads. As a result of the setbacks, Scholastic lowered its forecast for the fiscal year that ends in May.
Netflix Nabs ‘Hunger Games’ For The UK & Ireland
Netflix has secured exclusive rights to The Hunger Games for the UK and Ireland before it hits the streaming service in the U.S. Netflix entered the market in January 2012 where Amazon’s Lovefilm is a strong player and where Sky continues to build its business. It hit 1M subscribers last August and has UK deals with studios including Disney, Fox, NBCU, Paramount and Miramax.
Bérénice Bejo To Star In ‘Le Dernier Diamant’
The Artist star Bérénice Bejo has booked her latest French film and will start shooting next week. The Eric Barbier-directed Le Dernier Diamant co-stars Yvan Attal, Jean-François Stévenin and Annie Cordy. France’s Vertigo Productions is producing with international sales handled by Other Angle Pictures. The heist movie follows an ex-con who is coerced into participating in the theft of a celebrated diamond during an auction in Antwerp and who becomes entangled with the diamond’s owner (Bejo).
Lionsgate execs had to do a little balancing act this morning when they talked to Wall Street analysts about the early plans for the movie version of author Veronica Roth’s Divergent. They clearly want investors to salivate over the prospect of another hit on the order of The Hunger Games. But they don’t want the Street to believe that the studio will blithely slap the Divergent name on the Hunger Games playbook. CEO Jon Feltheimer noted that, like Hunger Games, the new film — also based on a book series for children and young adults that anticipates a dystopian future — will open in mid-March (specifically, March 21, 2014). Divergent’s book sales “are approaching the 3M mark and continue to compare favorably to The Hunger Games and Twilight franchises at a similar point in their trajectory,” he says. But Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairman Rob Friedman says he recognizes key differences in the stories, and their fan bases. In Divergent “the society is different,” he says. Hunger Games “is about the society that’s striving for survival” while Divergent “is about the way a society is surviving with distinct personalities and how those personalities interweave with each other.” Not sure that I get the distinction, but the analyst who asked the question called the insight “helpful.”
NBCUniversal’s Spanish-language video operation wants to be seen as a movie destination — probably a smart strategy in light of reports showing a surge in movie-going by Latino audiences. The new multi-year agreement with Lionsgate extends their relationship; the companies did not disclose financial terms. But it will bring The Hunger Games to Telemundo beginning in 2015. The agreement also includes The Last Stand, The Three Musketeers, and 16 other films. The new deal with Lionsgate “will bring blockbuster releases featuring their favorite stars, including Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, directly into their living rooms.” says Telemundo VP of program planning and scheduling Maria Iregui. Telemundo says that Nielsen identified it as the top destination last year for Spanish-language TV movie viewers. Later this year her company and another NBCUniversal unit, Fandango, will launch “Fandango Cine,” a digital destination to provide movie info and ticketing for Spanish language audiences.
Anthony D’Alessandro is Managing Editor of AwardsLine
Who better to provide a voice to the well-received feature adaptation The Hunger Games than the generation’s most popular soulful vocalist, 23-year-old Taylor Swift? However, when Lionsgate executives and Oscar-winning singer-songwriter T-Bone Burnett approached Swift to pen an end-credits song, it wasn’t about the marriage of pop brands, rather it was her penchant for confessional folk ballads that caught their ear. Still, synergy doesn’t hurt. Last year, Swift’s album-sales headlines read like the boxoffice numbers of a record-breaking tentpole film: Her fourth album Red marked the second time in a debut week she sold over a million records, a feat no other female recording artist—not even Lady Gaga—can tout.
“They wanted the song to reflect what Appalachian music would sound like in 300 years, and they wanted me to write from Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence’s character) perspective,” says Swift of the Golden Globe-nominated tune. After watching exclusive clips from the apocalyptic thriller in Nashville, she promptly ripped through Suzanne Collins’ trilogy before teaming up with Burnett and the Civil Wars (Joy Williams and John Paul White). When the four gathered in a studio home that Burnett was working from, “It was just like lighting a match,” she says. “Joy suggested that we write about how Katniss wants to protect and comfort (the youngest Hunger Games contestant) Rue to the very …
The education-focused publishing company seemed subdued today, less than a week after the tragic school shootings in Connecticut. In a conference call with analysts to discuss earnings, Scholastic CEO Richard Robinson expressed sympathy for families of the murdered students and teachers. He also urged schools to continue to promote “optimism and hope,” while officials provide the “mental health resources our schools must have.” As for the financials: Cost savings helped, but weren’t enough to overcome declining sales of The Hunger Games trilogy and other disappointments. Shares are down 2.8% in early trading after Scholastic reported net income of $61.8M for the three months that ended in November, -25.4% vs the period last year, on revenues of $616.2M, -10.1%. Analysts expected revenues of about $632.5M. Earnings, at $1.89 a share, also fell short of the $2.05 that the Street anticipated.
The frontloaded worldwide total for Summit Entertainment’s Breaking Dawn Part 2 is $340.9M through today – or $141.3M domestic + $199.6M international. That helped its parent company Lionsgate achieve a first-ever milestone for it at the North American box office – crossing the $1 billion mark ($1.09B). This is also the first time ever that a studio has opened two films – Breaking Dawn Part 2 and The Hunger Games – to over $125M in the same year. And it certainly explains why Lionsgate was so eager to acquire Summit. Now Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga is ending, but Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games franchise is still reeling. Francis Lawrence is directing first sequel Catching Fire, now in production and set for a November 2013 release, and has signed to helm the final two installments, Mockingjay Part 1 (November 2014) and Mockingjay Part 2 (November 2015).
Stock prices are up 7.5% in post-market trading after the independent studio reported earnings for the September quarter that even surprised some of its biggest supporters on Wall Street. The Hunger Games video sales helped Lionsgate to generate net income of $75.5M, up from a $25.3M loss in the quarter last year, on revenues of nearly $707M, +97.4%. Analysts thought revenues would just hit $623.3M. And earnings at 56 cents a share far exceeded expectations for 12 cents. Theatrical revenues were up fivefold to $116.2M with contributions from the Possession, The Expendables 2, and Madea’s Witness Protection. Home entertainment revenues grew 59% to $277.8M from releases including Hunger Games, Cabin In The Woods, and What To Expect When You’re Expecting. The one weak spot was television production where revenues at $99M were -29% compared to last year which included the sale of the first four seasons of Mad Men to Netflix. Thanks to Hunger Games, “we’re clearly on track to meet or exceed our expectations this year,” CEO Jon Feltheimer says.
Francis Lawrence is seeing through Lionsgate‘s The Hunger Games franchise until the end. The director of the first sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, now in production, has now signed on to helm the final two installments of the series, Mockingjay Part 1 and Mockingjay Part 2, which splits the final book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy into two films. Danny Strong is writing both Mockingjay pics, and Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are back to star. The final two movies follow heroine Katniss Everdeen’s journey as she leads the districts of Panem in a rebellion against the tyrannical and corrupt Capitol, and she must decipher for herself who she can trust and what needs to be done, with everything she cares for in the balance.
Lawrence, whose credits include Constantine, I Am Legend and most recently Water For Elephants, replaced Gary Ross at the helm of Catching Fire in April. He was chosen in a race that came down to Lawrence and Moneyball helmer Bennett Miller, after Juan Antonio Bayona couldn’t do it. He is currently wrapping production on the pic with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone and Amanda Plummer joining the cast. Lawrence is repped by CAA and 3 Arts.
Lionsgate and Samuel and Victor Hadida’s Metropolitan Filmexport have formalized their relationship with an output deal for France. The two companies have long worked together with Metropolitan releasing all of Lionsgate’s major titles in recent years including The Hunger Games. Lionsgate has been busy securing deals with offshore partners to create an international distribution network. The Metropolitan pact follows recent agreements with StudioCanal in Germany, Nordisk Films in Scandinavia, Aurum Producciones in Spain and Roadshow Pictures in Australia. The deal with Metropolitan covers only Lionsgate’s slate. Summit’s titles have traditionally gone through SND in France, a company that held about 10% of Summit until it cashed out during the Lionsgate/Summit merger.
There is no deal in place for him to write Lionsgate‘s two-part finale to The Hunger Games, but we’re hearing it’s likely to happen. The Game Change scribe is coming off a big Emmys, where the HBO movie swept the longform categories including winning for his script about Sarah Palin and the 2008 presidential race. Mockingjay is the third in the Suzanne Collins book trilogy and is being split into two movies a la Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows. The second movie in the franchise, Catching Fire, is due out November 23, 2013, while Mockingjay has been dated for November 21, 2014 (Part I) and November 20, 2015 (Part II). The first film in the series bowed in March and has grossed $685 million worldwide.
Media companies usually don’t crow about the size of their revolving credit facilities. But Lionsgate‘s release today makes it clear that it sees its new deal as a vote of confidence by the banking community in the independent studio’s prospects following its acquisition of Summit Entertainment and success with The Hunger Games. JPMorgan Entertainment Industries Group’s David Shaheen calls it “a testament to the Company’s strong relationships with the financing community and the value of its franchises and filmed entertainment library, and it reflects the significant recent expansion of the Company’s borrowing base.”
The new facility replaces the five-year one due to expire this July. It carries the same interest rate, LIBOR plus 2.5% — which translates to about 3% in today’s low interest rate environment. That should enable the studio to pay down its $436M in high-yield debt which carries a 10% interest rate, potentially resulting in a savings of as much as $30M a year just on interest payments. Big as the Lionsgate facility is, it’s still smaller than Viacom’s $2B facility in 2010 and DreamWorks Animation’s $1B one in 2003.
Here’s the release:
Santa Monica, CA, September 7, 2012- Lionsgate® and the filmmakers of THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE are pleased to announce that Jeffrey Wright has been cast in the role of Beetee in the much anticipated film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ worldwide smash hit novel Catching Fire. Hailing from District 3, Beetee earns the nickname “Volts” because of his electronics expertise.
The rating service followed through today on the path it hinted it would take in March when it put Lionsgate‘s debt under review. It only delivered a small bump: Lionsgate’s corporate family went to B1 from B2 — which means it’s still considered speculative. That’s due in part to “the inherent high risk and typical low margins associated with the film production business and the mixed performance of Lionsgate’s film slate in recent years,” Moody’s Investors Service says. Still, its analysts say that the success of The Hunger Games “has significantly improved the company’s cash flow generation and de-leveraging prospects.” In addition, the acquisition of Summit Entertainment “has been credit positive for the company from both a strategic and financial standpoint.” It will “help diversify Lionsgate’s revenue stream by adding the successful Twilight franchise to its current portfolio, and result in significant cost savings from overhead reduction and marketing and distribution synergies.” Moody’s notes that Lionsgate’s 31.2% stake in EPIX can contribute now that it “generates free cash flow and does not require additional investments from the company as it did a few years back.” Debt holders also would benefit if Lionsgate unloaded its 51% interest in the TVGuide Network, “which it has shown strong interest in selling over the past year.”
Lionsgate announced today that the home entertainment release of the first installment of its blockbuster franchise The Hunger Games was also the largest digital and on demand launch in the Company’s history, generating the biggest first day sales of any title on Zune Video on Xbox, achieving more first day transactions on Comcast than any title in the past four years and generating record Lionsgate revenue on iTunes. It sold an estimated 3.8 million DVD and Blu-ray units in its first weekend of release, continuing the momentum it demonstrated in generating more than $407 million at the North American box office, the 13th highest grossing North American release of all time. Lionsgate EVP and General Manager of Home Entertainment Ron Schwartz said more than 1/3 of its first weekend units sold in the higher margin Blu-ray format, a remarkably high percentage. The first installment of The Hunger Games franchise has already grossed nearly $700 million at the box office worldwide.
BREAKING: Since Gary Ross dropped out of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, he kicked the tires on a bunch of projects. He has now firmed up the Disney film Peter And The Starcatchers as his next directing vehicle. Ross has lost interest in directing The Secret Life Of Houdini, a project that Summit Entertainment is putting together. They never got as far as making a deal with Ross.
Ross is squarely focused on Disney’s adaptation of the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and the studio is waiting for a new draft of the Jesse Wigutow script that is scheduled to be delivered in October. The film hasn’t been budgeted, but Ross hopes to direct it as his next film as quickly as possible in 2013. The film is in spirit a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, a fantasy pirate adventure full that starts when Peter leads a group of orphaned boys sent to work as servants for King Zarboff. He winds up on a ship with Molly, who intrigues him with a story of how she is an apprentice Starcatcher, a group that collects “starstuff” that falls to Earth and gives power to those who find it. They must keep it away from the pirate Black Stache, as well as the king. The tale was already turned into a Broadway production.
A Ross commitment puts …