LONDON — Lionsgate U.K. has unveiled plans to finance and co-invest in at least 25 British independent films over the next four years. The company will look to take international rights to these movies where it can.
Lionsgate’s U.K. and European CEO Zygi Kamasa said Tuesday that the move would further strengthen the studio’s position as one of the leading co-financiers and distributors in the U.K. He said: “The U.K. is one of the most creatively exciting places in the world to be making movies right now, and we want to help position independent British films at the forefront of cinema worldwide.”
In the past three years, Lionsgate U.K. has invested in and released more than 20 British features with a combined production budget of more than $225 million. Among the U.K. films that it has distributed recently are Alan Rickman’s “A Little Chaos,” starring Kate Winslet; Steven Knight’s “Locke,” starring Tom Hardy; and James Kent’s “Testament of Youth,” starring Kit Harington.
For 2015/16, the company has added the recent Sundance breakout title “Brooklyn” and the upcoming Matthew Vaughn-produced and Dexter Fletcher-directed “Eddie the Eagle,” starring Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman, to their release schedule. The recently announced “Limehouse Golem,” starring Rickman and Douglas Booth, and produced by Stephen Woolley, will also be released in 2016 by Lionsgate U.K.
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The level of the investments will vary, Kamasa told Variety, on a project by project basis. In the past, this has ranged from the acquisition of U.K. rights through to the acquisition of a substantial equity stake, such as on “A Little Chaos,” in which Lionsgate U.K. invested roughly half of the $16 million budget. “It really varies according to the scale of the movie and what’s needed to get it made,” Kamasa said.
Lionsgate recently moved its international film sales team to London, and Kamasa is keen to pick up international rights to movies, rather than just take the U.K. rights. “I am very keen to acquire more films for international representation, although they’ve got to be driven by our U.K. appetite for them first. But often the sales rights have gone,” he told Variety. “There isn’t a lot of point in us putting up half the budget of the movie if we don’t have the (international) distribution rights. We want to take the rights for our partners around the world.”
Kamasa said there were “no plans at this stage” for Lionsgate to distribute pics itself outside of the U.K. and the U.S. “We have partners and output deals in a lot of major territories for many years to come,” he said. “We’re very happy with them and that relationship. They need product for their own businesses and we are happy to provide those to them. So, no plans at this stage.”
Lionsgate would only acquire English-language films, Kamasa said, although it would be happy to look at English-language movies from producers based outside of the English-speaking territories.
Kamasa said that British filmmaking is on a high at present. “I think it is exceptionally healthy. I think it is healthy for a couple of reasons. The tax credit is very, very positive for all scale of films. I think the fact that a lot of the big movies come to the U.K. (to shoot) is a positive thing over all for the industry. It trains and educates the crew to work on those bigger-scale movies.”
He added that although British cast and crew were paid very well to work on Hollywood movies, they were “very patriotic and want to work on great British movies (as well).”
“The more successful the industry overall is, with U.S. studios here it becomes this circle of reinvestment, which is fantastic for the industry, and great for us to be able to then get those independent British movies made,” he said.