Steve Beeks & Ron Schwartz

Pair's DVD flare helps yield billion-dollar year

Company: Lionsgate

Titles: Beeks is president and chief operation officer; Schwartz is g.m. and exec VP of home entertainment

Leadership: Lionsgate has established the growth model for the indie film biz.

Starting as a tiny coastal enclave on the shores of British Columbia in the late 1970s, Lionsgate has grown into a publicly traded powerhouse that — producing nearly a billion dollars in revenue overall for the last fiscal campaign — almost defies categorization as an indie.

And since its merger with Artisan Entertainment in late 2003, the studio has more than quadrupled its share of homevid.

While the industry has seen DVD sales slide in the last year, Lionsgate’s home entertainment revenue was steady at $528 million in its latest fiscal year, ending March 31.

Nearly half of that — $256 million — came from library sales, which rose an impressive 21%.

Through acquisitions and licensing deals with Republic Pictures, StudioCanal and others, Lionsgate has amassed the industry’s largest catalog, featuring more than 11,000 titles so far — with an eye to a digital future where shelf space no longer constrains the amount of titles sold.

At the same time, the company has expanded its new-release slate with higher-profile theatrical franchises such as “Saw” and DVD premiere deals with well-known brands Marvel and Bratz, all of which have yielded strong disc sellers.

Beeks says growth has come from sticking close to genres that have proved profitable in the past — horror, urban, comedy, family and fitness.

The focus on the bottom line in home entertainment has resulted in DVD releases that consistently outperform their box office gross.

POV: “For the most part, we try to do things on which we can build future businesses and future franchises,” Beeks says. “At the same time, it’s about never losing focus on what got you there.”

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