“I’ve got a lot of Irish in my DNA, the organization doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s for a great cause,” Burns tells Variety. “I’ve attended several times and I always feel as if I’m among my people.”
Burns says he’s been looking for Wilde aphorisms to use at the event, such as, “Experience is simply the name that we give our mistakes.”
In announcing the Burns honor, U.S.-Ireland Alliance president Trina Vargo cited Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games,” “Crash” and “Precious” on the feature side; “Mad Men,” “Nurse Jackie” and “Weeds” in TV; efforts to leverage its content into digital media initiatives; and several initiatives strengthening Lionsgate’s capital structure, including last fall’s completion of a five-year, $800 million revolving credit facility.
Wall Street has been swooning over Lionsgate for the past year on the heels of the final “Twilight” movie, the start of the “Hunger Games” franchise and the growing belief that the studio can deliver new young-adult tentoples. Recent stellar quarterly earnings reports that blew past analysts’ expectations have lifted the stock past $20 — more than double its value since Lionsgate bought Summit in early 2012.
Burns joined the Lionsgate board in 1999 and became vice chairman in 2000. Since then, he and CEO Jon Feltheimer have steadily grown Lionsgate through internal expansion and acquisitions — Trimark in the same year, followed by Artisan (2003), Redbus Holdings (2005), Debmar-Mercury (2006), Mandate Pictures (2007), TV Guide (2009) and Summit Entertainment (2012) as well as investments in Roadside Attractions and Break Media.
“Jon and I really did this with a blocking and tackling approach, going out and finding libraries and other assets that make sense for us,” he says. “We’re not an overnight sensation.”
One notable characteristic of the executive management team has been its continuity, with Burns citing such execs as chief financial officer James Keegan, marketing topper Tim Palen and corporate communications chief Peter Wilkes. It announced earlier this month that the deals of a pair of veterans from the Trimark days have been extended: Wayne Levin as general counsel and chief strategic, and Jason Constantine as president of acquisitions and co-productions for its motion picture group.
“One of the reasons we’ve been successful is that we’ve been able to keep really talented people who get along with each other,” Burns says. “They are nice people.”
• Colin Farrell & Michele Burke honored at Wilde awards