Film to open day and date worldwide

Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games” will be released in China next year as one of the 20 U.S. films allowed annually into that territory by the Chinese government.

Lionsgate motion picture group president and co-chief operating officer Joe Drake made the disclosure Thursday during the mini-major’s conference call to discuss quarterly earnings.

Drake said that “Games” will be released in foreign markets day and date with the domestic launch on March 23 but didn’t reveal the Chinese date. Pic, starring Jennifer Lawrence and directed by Gary Ross, is the first of four films planned based on Suzanne Collins’ futuristic fantasy novels.

Drake said international distribs were “absolutely ecstatic” over footage and the trailer shown during a recent meeting held by Lionsgate for licensees at the American Film Market.

He said that Lionsgate’s expecting “significant overages” in box office performance outside the U.S., adding, “We have enormous upside.”

Drake also revealed that Lionsgate will mount a significant merchandising program through Striker Entertainment, which also works for Summit on the “Twilight” films. “We have the same A-team onboard,” he said.

The “Hunger Games” trailer will debut Monday on “Good Morning America,” the exec said, and will be attached to “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1,” which opens next weekend. He also said “Hunger Games” will not screen at Imax outlets, citing that chain’s agreement with a rival studio.

Lionsgate reported Wednesday that it had pared its net losses by about $5 million to $25 million last quarter on an $11 million gain from selling Maple Pictures and ramped up contributions from pay TV partnership Epix, which earned it $6 million after losing it $20 million the year before.

But the studio swung to a $19 million operating loss from a $22 million profit a year ago on a string of box office disappointments, including “Conan the Barbarian,” “Abduction” and “Warrior.”

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