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Lionsgate Releasing

Indie leader expands bandwith, revs up releases

There have been major changes within the ranks at Lionsgate since last September. That was when the mini-major acquired Joe Drake’s Mandate Pictures and made Drake co-chief operating officer and prexy of the Motion Pictures Group. The genre market that drove much of Lionsgate’s success can only provide so much, and the indie is looking to expand its range and breadth.

There are other key hires as well. Alli Shearmur, former Par production co-president, joined at the end of August to oversee a new production unit aimed at developing more mainstream pics. And Lisa Ellzey, a former production exec at 20th Century Fox, joined as exec VP of motion pictures. Also, Lionsgate took a stake in indie boutique distrib Roadside Attractions.

“We see ourselves as the next generation of studio capable of just about anything, from a prestige title to four-quadrant blockbusters. Our release schedule through the end of this year is evidence of that, and the slate of pics that we are putting together for 2009 will certainly confirm it,” says Tom Ortenberg, president of Lionsgate Theatrical Films.

Films that crossed $50 million mark over the past year were “Saw IV,” “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?,” “3:10 to Yuma” and “The Forbidden Kingdom.” A jam-packed schedule for fall and winter includes four back-to-back weekends of wide releases.

Company is also entering into the high-stakes holiday fray with graphic novel superstar Frank Miller’s “The Spirit,” which got bumped up to a Dec. 25 bow from Jan. 16 after enthusiastic response from fans at New York Comic-Con. Lionsgate has been building hype through enigmatic billboards and an Internet campaign.

B.O. CUME: $424 million

TOP PIC: “Saw IV,” $63 million

TOPPERS: Jon Feltheimer, co-chair/CEO; Michael Burns, vice chairman; Steve Beeks, president/co-COO; Joe Drake, co-COO/president, Lionsgate Motion Pictures Group

UP NEXT:

“Tyler Perry’s the Family That Preys” (Sept. 12)

“My Best Friend’s Girl” (Sept. 19)

“The Lucky Ones” (Sept. 26)

“Religulous” (Oct. 3)

“W.” (Oct. 17)

“Saw V” (Oct. 24)

“Repo! The Genetic Opera” (Nov. 7)

“Transporter 3” (Nov. 26)

“Punisher: War Zone” (Dec. 5)

“The Spirit” (Dec. 25)

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