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Lionsgate Remastering Film Library in 4K, Eyeing Horror SVOD Service

10 Nov, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Mini-major open to altered theatrical/digital windows

Lionsgate is remastering its top 100 movies in 4K ultra high-definition for digital and broadcast release, according to Steve Beeks, co-COO and president of the motion picture group.

Speaking on the company's Nov. 10 fiscal call, Beeks was asked about an apparent resurgence in Blu-ray Disc and the format’s link to 4K resolution, which is said to offer four times the clarity of 1080p resolution.

While not addressing Blu-ray specifically, Beeks said Lionsgate has been a longtime proponent of new video formats such as DVD, Blu-ray and digital. With 2 million UHD TV sets reportedly sold in the United States this year, Beeks contends consumers are “definitely” moving toward consuming 4K content.

“We are getting ready for it. We’re having conversations with some of the MVPDs that are starting 4K [broadcast] channels, and you’ll certainly see some of the library films enter this phase,” Beeks said.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate is actively looking to take its legacy horror films (e.g. the "Saw" franchise) direct to the consumer, CEO Jon Feltheimer told analysts. The executive was asked about Lionsgate’s former stake in FearNet and whether it would consider monetizing the horror library over-the-top. 

Lionsgate is a major content provider to subscription streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus domestically, and just launched a proprietary OTT video platform with Tribeca Film Festival. It also has a pending service debut with Comic-Con International.

AMC Network recently launched a standalone horror SVOD platform called Shudder. Feltheimer thinks there’s room for additional players willing to push the envelope in the genre.

“We think it’s a great area for direct-to-consumer and actually to do content that’s way edgier, because you don’t have to worry much about various content restrictions in terms of ratings,” he said. “It’s something we’re definitely looking at.”

Lionsgate was also asked whether it would consider experimenting with altered theatrical release windows similar to what Paramount Pictures did with the "Paranormal Activity" franchise. Paramount is releasing theatrical titles into the digital market 17 days after their screen count falls below 300.

Despite Paramount pledging to split the digital revenue with theater operators, some exhibitors refused to screen the final "Paranormal Activity" movie in protest.

Rob Friedman, co-chairman of the motion picture group at Lionsgate, welcomed Paramount for starting a dialog about release windows.

“We think it is a real opportunity in our business to look at all sorts of optionality as it relates to bringing our product to the consumer. Whether [Paramount’s test] worked financially well doesn’t really matter. What’s happening with exhibition and the conversation that is going on with distribution partners we think is very healthy,” Friedman said.

Finally, Lionsgate announced that Discovery Communications and Liberty Global had acquired separate 3.4% stakes in Lionsgate after purchasing 10 million shares for $390 million from board chairman Mark Rachesky’s MHR Fund Management LLC.

Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries and Discovery CEO David Zaslav will each have one designee appointed to Lionsgate's board.

"We believe that this agreement creates tremendous strategic opportunities to grow our content initiatives around the world and positions us to generate significant incremental value for our shareholders,” Feltheimer said in a statement.


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