EXCLUSIVE: Production has been set to begin on the sequel to horror/thriller hit The Last Exorcism next month in New Orleans. Ed Gass-Donnelly, whose credits include This Beautiful City and Small Town Murder Songs, will direct the R-rated follow-up to the 2010 PG-13 pic that grossed $70 million worldwide on a budget of $1.5 million. Ashley Bell is returning to reprise her role as Nell Sweetzer for the Damien Chazelle-penned film. As with the original, Eli Roth is producing via Arcade Pictures with Eric Newman, Marc Abraham and Tom Bliss producing via Strike Entertainment. Studiocanal will fully finance and kick off international sales at the European Film Market in Berlin next month. The original picture centered on a charlatan exorcist facing a crisis of conscience who invites a documentary crew on his final exorcism where he comes across the possessed Nell. I’ve been told the sequel will pick up three months after that film left off, although further story details are being kept under wraps. Delivery is expected for late 2012. Roth says he’s “very, very excited to continue to this story. Obviously with the title of the first one we had not planned on a sequel, but we love the story and subject matter and had what we feel is an inspired idea to continue it. As you can see from other recent films, fans around the world are fascinated by this subject matter, and we want to go deeper and darker this time. The first film worked great as a PG-13 psychological film, but now we want to go R-rated and show the true horror
The company reported a 2nd quarter net loss of $29.7 million compared to net income of $31.7 million same quarter last year. But Lionsgate did report revenue of $456.3 million, an increase of 25% over last year. The revenue rise was boosted mainly by increases in theatrical box office — Lionsgate released The Expendables, The Last Exorcism and Alpha & Omega this past quarter – as well as international and television production. The loss was due to a rise in marketing costs but also could be partially blamed on fighting its biggest shareholder, Carl Icahn, as charges associated with a July 20 debt-to-equity conversion as well as hefty legal bills contributed to the drop. Lionsgate and Icahn, who have been waging a campaign to take control of the company, are prepping to go face-to-face at the annual shareholders meeting set for December 14.
Lionsgate has recommended to shareholders that they spurn Carl Icahn’s latest offer to pay $7.50 for outstanding shares. The company just filed its Schedule 14D-9 Report. The report described a September 7 meeting of the board of directors, which unanimously rejected the offer and voted to recommend that shareholders do the same. The reasons included strings that Icahn attached to the offer, but also that Lionsgate management feels confident about recent momentum it has built with recent releases The Expendables and The Last Exorcism, both of which performed well in late August. The company also cited the surprising resilience of the film Kick-Ass, which has grossed $50 million domestic and $100 million worldwide and which just topped the DVD sales charts. Lionsgate also cited a record 26 Emmy nominations, including wins for Mad Men and Nurse Jackie, as reasons to feel bullish on the TV side. Not in the report was the week long meetings held by Lionsgate brass with directors for The Hunger Games, the first in a series of three Suzanne Collins novels that have the potential to be a game-changer for the indie, much the way that Twilight was for Summit Entertainment.
Icahn recently raised his share offer to its highest, after a starting bid of $6.50, which climbed to $7. The stock closed slightly down, at $7.14 per share.
MONDAY 2ND UPDATE: Here are the actuals for this weekend. Sony/Screen Gems’ Takers won despite a 668 locations advantage in The Last Exorcism‘s favor. I hear Joe Drake at Lionsgate phoned Jeff Blake this morning to congratulate him.
#1 Takers (Screen Gems/Sony) -32% Sunday for $20.5M
#2 The Last Exorcism (Lionsgate) -45% Sunday for $20.3M
Lionsgate is hoping it has the next Paranormal Activity in this low-budget thriller about an exorcist with a crisis of conscience. The film is populated by unknowns and, once Hostel helmer Eli Roth signed on as a producer, the budget was covered through foreign pre-sales. Lionsgate later acquired it in a bidding battle. It opens August 27.