Former Lionsgate founder's back in entertainment biz

VANCOUVER — Lionsgate founder Frank Giustra is returning to the entertainment biz, making a significant investment in Vancouver-based Thunderbird Films to help expand and diversify its TV operations.

Although the amount of coin wasn’t revealed on Wednesday, it will make the Canadian businessman and philanthropist one of Thunderbird’s major shareholders, per the production company‘s co-founders Tim Gamble and Michael Shepard, who serve as CEO and president, respectively.

“As we expand our business and step up production, Frank’s support ensures that we can maintain our independence and parlay incredible opportunities,” Gamble said.

Taking a non-traditional approach to rights management, Thunderbird will give producers distribution advances.

“By providing producers with advances, we’re able to guide them into finance and production opportunities and continue to be flexible with distribution agreements, all of which opens the door to greater possibilities,” said Shepard.

Giustra’s investment will go a long way towards acquiring and producing future programming.

“I am pleased to make this investment in Thunderbird and admire the success Tim, Michael and their team have achieved with the company during the past eight years,” said Giustra. “Thunderbird will now have access to sufficient capital to focus on becoming a prominent entity in the production and distribution of television programming with a special emphasis on rights management. I look forward to moving the company to its next level of success, leveraging its independence to capitalize on global opportunities.”

Thunderbird will also soon unveil a new name that will better reflect its various operations.

It is currently enjoying success with its TV series, “Mr. Young,” which has been running on Disney XD and was recently moved to a primetime slot. The company also owns a 50% stake in the “Blade Runner” film franchise.

A former investment banker, Giustra set up Lionsgate in 1997 to capitalize on the growing Vancouver film industry. He sold most of his stake six years later. He is presently a board member.

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