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Lionsgate touts success at Toronto

Minimajor topper Feltheimer talks up the future

With the Carl Icahn drama finally behind them, Jon Feltheimer talked up a brighter future for Lionsgate on Tuesday at the mini-major’s annual shareholders meeting, held in keeping with the company tradition in the midst of the Toronto film fest.

Feltheimer put special emphasis on the company’s soup-to-nuts success in milking profits from its Showtime series “Weeds” now that it has such assets as the TV Guide Network cabler at its disposal. What Feltheimer didn’t have to do was mount a defense of the company’s management history and strategic decisions. Because for the first time in three years, there was no dark cloud of a hostile takeover attempt hanging over the proceedings. The I-word didn’t even come up during the 12-minute meeting.Indeed, Tuesday’s low-key sesh at the Soho Hotel came in stark contrast to last year’s shareholders meeting, held in December in Beverly Hills, where Lionsgate successfully withstood a spirited proxy battle with Icahn.

Late last month, the mini-major and Icahn reached an accord to break even by selling his 33% stake in the company at $7 a share in a series of deals totaling about $309 million. Under that surprise pact with Icahn, the two sides agreed to dismiss all outstanding litigation between them — bringing to a close a tumultuous three-year period that saw Icahn accuse Lionsgate management repeatedly of overspending and failing to boost the stock price to anywhere near its 2007 high of $12.

On Tuesday, Feltheimer accentuated the positive, taking the 40 or so attendees through what he called Lionsgate’s “end-to-end solution” for “Weeds.” The company has produced seven seasons of the half-hour dramedy, which is a key anchor of Showtime’s original sked. Since then, Lionsgate has sold the Mary-Louise Parker starrer in 125 foreign markets and has generated $100 million on DVD, plus significant revenues from digital platforms and by carrying reruns on TV Guide Network.

“No other independent has these capabilities,” Feltheimer said. “We’re a very unique value proposition.”

On the film side, Lionsgate is hoping for a big boost to its sagging fortunes from the launch next year of the first in what the company hopes will be a B.O. franchise based on the “Hunger Games” book trilogy. The film was not discussed during the meeting but it was undoubtedly on the minds’ of shareholders ad Wall Streeters. At a budget of nearly $100 million, it ranks as Lionsgate’s most expensive pic to date.

Lionsgate shares were unchanged at the close of trading Tuesday to $6.92. Shares are up 6.3% for the year, but down slightly since the Icahn settlement was announced Aug. 30.

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