Friday, August 21, 2015

Lionsgate Hopes To Prove With Future Movies They're More Than Just The Hunger Games Franchise

For eons now, six movie studios have been designated as the six "major" studios in town. Those six are as follows: Disney, Universal, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Sony/Columbia and Warner Bros. It's not that you can't have a movie studio beyond those six, on the contrary, there are a large amount of independent studios like The Weinstein Company, Open Road Films and STX Entertainment leaving their mark on the film industry. But those six are the ones who bring in the most revenue and release far more movies than typical independent studios (Warner Bros. typically releases 20+ movies a year).

Perhaps it's time to expand that class of major studios to seven in order to accompany Lionsgate, who will likely become the first non-major movie studio to release a billion dollar grossing movie this Fall when the final Hunger Games feature is released. At this point, each year Lionsgate grosses more than at least one of the major studios (they didn't accomplish this feat last year, though they grossed more at the domestic box office than 20th Century Fox and Paramount in 2013), so why not give them that classification?

One hurdle they almost certainly face in not being granted the right to be dubbed a "major studio" is their trouble with getting non-Hunger Games movies to box office success. The studio has released nine movies that grossed $100 million at the domestic box office, a third of which are Hunger Games movies. One of those is the last Twilight movie (which they gained distribution rights for when they purchased Summit Entertainment), two more are entries in the Divergent saga, and the last three are The Expendables, Now You See Me and the 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.

Frankly, it looks like Lionsgates current plan as a movie studio involves subsidiary Summit Entertainment releasing the commercially appealing films like Divergent, Now You See Me, Warm Bodies and John Wick while Lionsgate gets saddled with box office duds like Mortdecai and I, Frankenstein. Those box office duds are really what keep the studios profile lowered, but it does look like the studio is attempting an interesting overhaul of the studio starting next year that will allow for more commercially appealing films to come out from both Summit and Lionsgate.

This means a number of films will be released under the studio that will attempt to kickstart another big franchise for the studio. This fall brings The Last Witch Hunter (starring Vin Diesel), which has already started work on a sequel, while next year the $150 million fantasy adventure Gods of Egypt will try to give Gerard Butler another big franchise to be in. They'll also release John Wick 2 next year and in the future will release Power Rangers, Robin Hood: Origins and Odysseus, all of which could become large scale franchises.

Interestingly, part of Lionsgates transition into becoming a studio that can survive without an annual Katniss Everdeen movie is increasing not only the amount of big blockbusters they make, but also in the amount of dramas they distribute. Summit will be handling the Ellen Page and Julliane Moore starring drama Freeheld this fall, while next year Lionsgate will handle Hacksaw Ridge (the next directorial effort from Mel Gibson) and an untitled drama focusing on the Boston Marathon Bombing that may star Jake Gyllenhaal. Will all these films be box office successes? Who truly knows. But it is interesting to watch the studio overhaul the sort of films they put out as they attempt to transition
into a company churning out the kind of annual revenue worthy of a "major studio".

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