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New Lions Gate Has ‘Coming Out Party'

14 Jul, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold

LAS VEGAS — At what he called a “coming out party” for Hollywood's newest mini-major, Lions Gate Entertainment president Steve Beeks said that since the merger last December with Artisan Entertainment, the combined company has snagged a nearly 5 percent share of the home entertainment market, fueled by such strong-selling theatrical titles as House of 1,000 Corpses, Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Cooler.

Beeks spoke Monday night at the company's annual summit with key retailers and distributors in Las Vegas, on the eve of the VSDA's Home Entertainment 2004.

The market share spike, along with a catalog of more than 8,000 titles and a steady stream of theatrical feature film releases, makes Lions Gate “the largest independent producer of feature film and home entertainment product” and puts the company “just behind some of our major studio brethren,” Beeks said.

For the remainder of the year, Beeks said, Lions Gate has eight more theatrical releases, seven of them opening wide. Among them: Open Water, a thriller starring a shark as the villain; The Cookout, with Queen Latifah and Danny Glover; The Final Cut, starring Robin Williams; Stage Beauty, with Claire Danes and Billy Crudup; Beyond the Sea, starring Kevin Spacey; and Eulogy, with Ray Romano and Debra Winger.

Lions Gate's upcoming home entertainment slate is led by three recent theatricals: Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, due July 20 and benefiting from a $3 million marketing campaign; Godsend, a psychological thriller with Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and Robert De Niro, arriving Aug. 17; and The Punisher, a superhero film, based on a comic book, starring John Travolta and Tom Jane and due on home video Sept. 7.

Also on tap are several TV DVD releases, including Will & Grace Season 3, season 1 of Alf and the miniseries 10.5, and special DVD editions of Highlander 2, Stir of Echoes, Red Heat and Rambo: First Blood. The first “Rambo” title, coming to video in November, will include an alternate ending in which the Rambo character, Sylvester Stallone, kills himself.

Beeks called the combined theatrical and home video offerings “an embarrassment of riches for this company.”

Further boosting Lions Gate's prospects in the remainder of the year is an expanded slate of children's product from the newly renamed Lions Gate Family Home Entertainment, which touts a 5.3 percent share of the overall children's market and prides itself on hooking up with top toy and other licensed brands.

Unit president Glenn Ross was scheduled to speak Tuesday night and showcase half a dozen new deals and expected big sellers, including The Avengers, the first title in the company's deal with Marvel Enterprises, and the fourth installment in the popular “Barbie” line. The three previous animated films have sold a combined 13 million units. The new film, Barbie as Princess and the Pauper, arrives Sept. 28, packaged with a bonus CD of the film's soundtrack.

Other children's titles in the pipeline include the first CGI-animated “Care Bears” movie, Journey to Joke-a-Lot (Oct. 5); the first CGI “Popeye” film, Popeye's Voyage, the Quest for Pappy (Nov. 9); and the first CGI “Megablocks” film, Megablocks: Dragon Fire and Ice (Oct. 12), another CGI debut.

Ross sees big growth ahead for the children's video market, particularly on DVD. Industrywide, he expects DVD shipments of kidvids to rise from 176 million units last year to 476 million units in 2007. The children's nontheatrical sector, Ross predicted, will grow from 11 million DVDs shipped in 2003 to 51 million units in 2007.

Consumer spending on kidvids, Ross said, is expected to increase from $2 billion last year to $7 billion in 2007.

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