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Beeks: Lionsgate Not Concerned With Walmart Shrinking Shelf Space

22 May, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Lionsgate co-COO Steve Beeks

Suggestions that Walmart, the biggest retailer of packaged media, may be shrinking shelf space in stores devoted to DVDs and Blu-ray Disc is not an immediate concern to Lionsgate, co-COO Steve Beeks told analysts.

Speaking May 22 on the mini-major’s fiscal call, Beeks was asked about moves Walmart appears to be making reconfiguring retail space for discs, including point-of-purchase displays. The retailer May 19 reported a low single-digit Q1 revenue decline in general merchandise, which includes entertainment media.

Beeks said Walmart typically makes changes to in-store packaged-media configurations every 18 to 24 months, based on consumer feedback (i.e. purchases). The executive said variations likely involve smaller title releases and “secondary pictures,” to which Lionsgate has responded.

Specifically, in-store policies include dates when titles can be stocked onto store shelves, which Beeks said affects release strategies on some titles, but not major theatrical franchises such as “Hunger Games” and “Divergent.”

“We’re always watching what [Walmart is] doing,” he said.

Separately, Beeks reiterated that the April launch of the Lionsgate Premiere label was not an attempt to merge Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment theatrical distribution.

The label plans to release about 15 Lionsgate and Summit titles annually through alternative channels, including digital and day-and-date releases. Initial titles include Chinese actioner Dragon Blade, starring Jackie Chan, Adrien Brody and John Cusack; Sundance Film Festival title Cooties, starring Rainn Wilson and Elijah Wood and written by "Saw" franchise co-creator Leigh Whannell; and horror-thriller Knock Knock, from Cabin Fever and Hostel writer-director Eli Roth, starring Keanu Reeves.

Beeks said Premiere enables Lionsgate to cut down on third-party distributors and bring that distribution in-house. Marketing initiatives are headed by Jean McDowell, SVP of marketing and research, under the supervision of chief marketing officer Tim Palen. Adam Sorensen is overseeing distribution.

Beeks said there would be no changes to existing Lionsgate and Summit organizational infrastructures.

“We will continue to distribute with our partner Roadside Attractions on an opportunistic basis, but other than that we expect to release multiplatform pictures as well as traditional releases through [Premiere], using as a backbone the status and marketing heft both [Lionsgate and Summit],” he said.

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