In terms of public perception, “Monster’s Ball” was Lions Gate’s coming out party. Not only was the pic a boxoffice hit last year but this year’s Oscar win for actress Halle Berry proved to the outside world what execs at the company have long been putting into practice. It validated Lions Gate’s business plan to slowly but surely grow the company to a size where it now accommodates inhouse productions as well as acquisitions to release 17-18 pictures a year, 6-7 of which are produced inhouse, and deliver a mixture of wide release commerical pictures as well as small edgy arthouse fare.
Long plagued by rumors of its financial fragility, Lions Gate saw motion picture revenue increase 39% to $160.5 from $115.6 million thanks to such pix as “Monster’s Ball” and “Amores Perros” along with the video releases of “O” and “The Wash.”
“We don’t feel equipped to compete with the studios in their business, and I’m not so sure they should compete with us in ours,” says Lions Gate CEO Jon Feltheimer. ” ‘Monsters Ball’ was not the indication of a new strategy nor did it redefine our strategy. It was the right release at the right time. We started on this path two years ago and we’ve stuck with it because we believe it works.”
Adds Lions Gate distribution chief Tom Ortenberg: “Grossing $13 million on a wide release like ‘Frailty’ is a good win for us. It’s a marathon not a sprint and we’ve shown steady growth by adhering to our business plan and distributing smartly and efficiently. That’s the challenge we’ve laid out for ourselves.”
Lions Gate had a successful arthouse release with “The Cat’s Meow” which grossed just over $3 million domestically. Though “Chelsea Walls” proved a major disappointment theatrically, to gross only $60,000 Ortenberg is confident it will find its audience in the ancillary markets.
Company gave a limited release to “Vulgar” to set it up for the ancillary sales, and is currently gauging boxoffice on the L.A. Film Fest opener “Lovely and Amazing,” from filmmaker Nicole Holofcener which has grossed approximately $400,000 to date.
Upcoming for the rest of the year is its Sundance pickup of the S&M romance “Secretary”, Tim Blake Nelson’s holocaust drama “The Grey Zone,” and Roger Avary’s “The Rules of Attraction.”
In terms of potential oscar contenders, Lions Gate will be betting on “Max,” starring John Cusack and Noah Taylor to role out in New York and LA in December and the James Foley directed “Confidence” starring Ed Burns, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz and Andy Garcia.
In 2003 company will release “Intacto” its Spanish/English language thriller in February and in March “The Hard Word,” an Australian drama it picked up just before Cannes. Company is also about to start production on “Shattered Glass,” continuing its relationship with Maggie Gyllenhaal.