Lionsgate’s pics tame but TV revs up

Studio blames homevideo, trio of soft releases

NEW YORK — Lionsgate swung to a net loss of $93.4 million in the fiscal third quarter from a profit of $7.3 million in the year-earlier period.

The film-centric company blamed double-digit homevid declines and a trio of soft theatrical releases in the quarter ended Dec. 31: “The Spirit,” “Punisher: War Zone” and “Transporter 3.” Together, the three grossed less than $60 million domestic and helped push total film revenue down 2% to $254.9 million.

The dip came despite strong contributions from “Saw V” and “Religulous” and a 9% uptick in theatrical revenue to $69.3 million ascribed to the number of major titles.

Overall company revenue still managed an 8% gain to $324 million thanks to growth in TV revs from nonproduction sources as well as from TV production.

Fueled by the delivery of a second season of “Mad Men” and a debut season of “Crash,” TV production soared 82% to $69 million. TV revs from nonproduction sources increased 25% largely due to an 80-episode order for “Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns.”

Homevid revenue fell 11% to $101.5 million on the lack of new theatrical titles debuting on DVD as well as the overall softness in retail of DVD that has hampered results across showbiz.

The company blamed the quarterly loss in part on expenses related to a new North American distribution deal with HIT Entertainment, producer of preschool fare such as “Barney and Friends” and “Thomas the Tank Engine.”

The long-booming market for nontheatrical preschool titles started to flatten not long after the deal began in May. Lionsgate also noted Monday that it has had to cope with an unexpected number of discs returned to stores. Execs did not specify an amount for the total HIT expenses.

The quarterly report comes amid a steady series of headlines for the mega-indie. In January, Lionsgate shelled out $255 million in cash to buy the TV Guide Channel. Weeks later, it waved goodbye to 12-year vet Tom Ortenberg, who left for a VP post at the Weinstein Co. It then entered a legal tussle with Weinstein over major Sundance pickup “Push,” for which it had mobilized Perry and Oprah Winfrey.

Execs, per their usual custom, released results after the close of trading and then planned to conduct a conference call with analysts this morning to discuss the numbers.

Lionsgate’s stock has been the source of angst both inside the company and among major shareholders. While never a high flyer, it has been halved by the economy’s collapse and closed Monday down 3% to $5.33, near a 52-week low.

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