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Lionsgate Aiming for More Franchises in Wake of ‘Hunger Games’ Success

With “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” having grossed $860 million worldwide, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer has underlined the studio’s focus on creating more franchises.

Feltheimer listed “Now You See Me,” “Mortdecai,” “Gods of Egypt,” “Chaos Walking” and “The Last Witch Hunter” as potential franchises for the studio during Friday morning’s call with analysts to discuss earnings for its third fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31.

Fueled by “Catching Fire” and “Now You See Me,” Lionsgate reported earnings after the market closed Thursday above forecasts at $88.8 million, or 64 cents a share. During the call, Feltheimer repeated Sunday’s announcment that the timetable for the release of the next two “Hunger Games” movies — “Mockingjay Part 1” on Nov. 21 and “Mockingjay Part 2” on Nov. 20, 2015 — will remain unchanged despite the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The actor played the part of the gamesmaker Plutarch Heavensbee.

“We were fortunate to have his incredible talent grace our Hunger Games family,” Feltheimer said Thursday. “We send our deepest condolences to all who were close to him.”

The CEO noted that the two “Mockingjay” films are being shot at the same time. “Director Francis Lawrence is taking advantage of the expanded world of Mockingjay to create compelling action set pieces designed to bolster the franchise’s growing resonance for international audiences, and both chapters will wrap this summer,” he added.

Feltheimer disclosed that Lionsgate’s sequel for “Now You See Me,” which grossed $117 million in the U.S. and $234 million internationally, will start shooting in September with most of the cast returning along with new stars. “We see it as an ongoing situation,” he added.

The CEO noted that another Lionsgate’s franchise will launch in six weeks with “Divergent,” based on the first book in Veronica Roth’s three-novel series and starring Shailene Woodley. He noted that the decision to move “The Hunger Games” movies from March to November was made for two reasons — getting the “Hunger Games” films in the prime holiday periods, and to open up the March slots for the “Divergent” films.

Feltheimer said the second “Divergent” movie — “Insurgent” — will be in production this summer in order to make its March 20, 2015 release date.

He announced that “Gods of Egypt,” starring Gerard Butler, will start shooting next month with a February, 2016 release date and touted Johnny Depp’s “Mortdecai” — which just wrapped production — as a potential franchise with Depp’s titular detective character.

“‘Mortdecai’ is shaping up to be a broad and witty comedy, with a franchise-able character in the vein of The Pink Panther,” Feltheimer said. “Led by Johnny Depp, the terrific cast also stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor and Paul Bettany in a movie that should attract the same kind of multigenerational audience that propelled Now You See Me to global blockbuster status.”

“It’s a character that Johnny Depp absolutely loved and would love to do more of,” Feltheimer added.

The exec noted that Robert Zemeckis is on board to direct “Chaos Walking,” based on the Patrick Ness trilogy of novels set in a dystopian world, while Vin Diesel is attached to “The Last Witch Hunter.” He also said Lionsgate hopes to announce another franchise title shortly, but gave no details.

Lionsgate, Feltehimer said, has “an ability to assemble and mine the richest and most diverse portfolios of intellectual property in the industry.”

He said the company will soon announce the filmmaker for its adaptation of the faith-based novel “The Shack,” which has sold over 10 million copies, with a planned release date for Easter of 2015.

“Another eagerly anticipated book that is close to film adaptation is ‘Wonder,’ which has topped The New York Times teen bestseller list since it was published over a year ago,” Feltheimer added.

Rob Friedman, co-chairman of the Lionsgate motion picture group, offered a bullish outlook during the call for “Divergent,” which opens March 21. He noted domestic sales of the three “Divergent” books are ahead of international with a total of 13 million books sold so far.

“We’ve had a tremendous trajectory in book sales, especially pre-Christmas, going through to the opening,” Friedman said.

The exec said that “Divergent” will be released internationally mostly through the Summit output partners, similar to those handling the five “Twilight” films.

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