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‘Saw’ sees Lions Gate revs double in 2005

Indie mini-major gets big boost due to sleeper hits

HOLLYWOOD — Propelled by theatrical releases including “Saw,” “The Punisher,” sleeper hit “Open Water” and blockbuster doc “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Lions Gate more than doubled its revenues in fiscal 2005.

The independent mini-major posted revs of $842.6 million for the year ending March 31, vs. $375.9 million in fiscal 2004.

The studio also swung to a profit of $20.3 million compared with a loss of $92.1 million.

CEO Jon Feltheimer said the company’s current operations should be able to produce significant and sustainable free cash flow through fiscal 2007 and beyond.

“As anticipated, we had a strong fiscal 2005,” Feltheimer said. “We exceeded our beginning of the year goals for revenue, free cash flow and adjusted net income, and continued to strengthen our balance sheet, ending the year in a strong cash position.”

The company’s theatrical division posted the largest percentage increase in sales, up 362.1% to $142.8 million vs. $30.9 million the prior year.

Homevid division accounted for the lion’s share of the company’s revenue, with sales more than doubling to $465.3 million from $223.4 million the year before. Key titles include “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” “The Cooler” and “Girl With a Pearl Earring.”

Television production revenue increased to $82.8 million from $60.7 million, led by deliveries of the one-hour drama series “The Dead Zone” and “Missing.” Also contributing to sales were the TV minis “Five Days to Midnight,” and television movies “Frankenstein,” “Widow on the Hill” and “Baby for Sale.”

Lions Gate Television is handling three additional series, including “The Cut” for CBS, half-hour comedy “Weeds” for Showtime and “Wildfire” for ABC Family.

Looking ahead to the rest of fiscal 2006, Feltheimer noted the year got off to a good start theatrically with “Crash,” which has scored more than $48 million at the North American box office.

The company is developing a sequel to “The Punisher” in conjunction with Marvel Entertainment, which owns the character. It also intends to make “Saw” a Halloween fixture, starting with plans to release “Saw 2” in October.

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