‘Mad Men,’ Lionsgate execs open Wall Street

Feltheimer, Burns, Weiner, Hamm grilled by CNBC host

A star-struck crowd at the New York Stock Exchange circled the cast of “Mad Men” on Wednesday as thesps, show creator Matthew Weiner and Lionsgate toppers Jon Feltheimer and Michael Burns rang the opening bell and were peppered with questions by peripatetic CNBC host James Cramer.

“I’m a little speechless,” Cramer said, calling “Mad Men,” which starts its fifth season Sunday on AMC, “the best business show ever.” He grilled Jon Hamm, January Jones, Christina Hendricks and John Slattery on the storyline but all passed. “I think we’re in the entertainment business, and I think it’s a very unique product, and people don’t know what’s going to happen. They have to watch it on TV, and they share the experience that night,” Weiner said.

Despite the yawing 17-month gap between seasons, which Weiner had opposed, he’s clearly encouraged by the hoopla surrounding the two-hour premiere. “I thought it was crazy, I bought it, but it turns out it might be okay,” he said.

It’s also a huge weekend for Lionsgate’s film studio as “The Hunger Games,” which has received even more play than “Mad Men,” opens Friday. But co-chairman and CEO Feltheimer was circumspect. “The record for Lionsgate was $41 million, and I’m pretty confident we’re going to break it” was the most he’d say.

Box office analysts predict an opening weekend of $100 million or more. Lionsgate stock price has nearly doubled so far this year on the “Hunger Games” drumbeat.

The company is focused on integrating Summit Entertainment, the studio behind “Twilight” acquired in January, but Feltheimer sees more diversification, “a lot more television” and other possible acquisitions over time. “The company’s growing beautifully,” he said.