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Lionsgate Has Franchise Fever, Looks to Duplicate ‘Hunger Games’ Success

With the first two “Hunger Games” films having grossed $1.5 billion worldwide and “Divergent” launched successfully, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer has touted the studio’s focus on creating more franchises.

Feltheimer listed “Now You See Me,” “Mortdecai,” “Gods of Egypt,” “American Ultra,” “Outliers,” “The Last Witch Hunter” and the recently announced “Power Rangers” as potential franchises for the studio during Friday morning’s call with analysts to discuss earnings for its fourth fiscal quarter, which ended March 31.

He noted that Lionsgate showcased two projects at Cannes —  “The Expendables 3,” opening Aug. 15 with a massive cast, and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” with Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast showing footage to distributors. The CEO noted that the “Now You See Me” sequel will begin shooting later this year with Jesse Eisenberg (pictured), Isla Fisher and Woody Harrelson reprising their roles.

In all, 12 of Lionsgate’s 25 upcoming films can be classified as franchises, Feltheimer said. He told analysts that the strategy makes sense because of the studio’s ability to minimize risk through cost control and use of incentives.

“We don’t model that everything is going to work, but obviously we’ve got a very robust business right now,” Feltheimer said. “Most of the things that we have do not require a large deficit going in.”

Feltheimer disclosed that “Gods of Egypt,” starring Gerard Butler, has a budget of $140 million — with Lionsgate’s exposure on the budget under $10 million, thanks to foreign pre-sales and incentives in Australia. The CEO noted that the figure is significantly below the minimajor’s $13 million average cost per film.

“No project speaks both to the vitality and the discipline of our franchise model more than ‘Gods of Egypt’ currently filming in Australia for release on February 12, 2016,” Feltheimer said.

“The budget of $140 million encompasses an epic reimaging of mythical, ancient Egypt with tremendous visual scope while tax incentives for filming in Australia and robust licensing to our international distribution partners around the world have left us with the U.S. gap of less than $10 million, even less than the average film on our slate.”

“Gods of Egypt,” directed by Alex Proyas, began shooting recently in New South Wales, which had been in competition with Victoria to host the production.

The cast includes Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Geoffrey Rush and Brenton Thwaites. Story is about a young thief who enlists the help of the ancient gods to bring his beloved back to life.

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