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Lionsgate U.K. Opens Its Purse For Passion Projects

Company feels its focus on British pics makes financial sense

Lionsgate U.K.’s increasing focus on investing in British movies to fill a major part of its distribution slate, alongside third-party acquisitions and titles from Lionsgate and Summit in the U.S., makes commercial sense, says Nick Manzi, head of production and acquisitions at Lionsgate U.K.

“There is an audience in this country for British films,” he says. “Every country wants to see stories about themselves, and we are lucky because we share the same language as America, so these films can travel — if you get them right.”

The aim is to give a wide release to the majority of its movies. “We look for stories that resonate with a broad audience,” he says. But Manzi warns that the distribution market has changed. “We are finding that there’s no in-between — there’s no middle ground. Films either work or they don’t.”

The company has a diverse range of movies on its slate, says Nicola Pearcey, president, distribution, of Lionsgate U.K. “If you were to ask what kind of films we acquire and invest in, the beauty for us is that we have no rules,” she says. “We are not restricted by anything in terms of what we look for.

“It’s about finding stand-out properties that we believe will deliver and hit home with the audience that we are trying to cut through to, because it is such a busy industry and consumer world that we have to cut-through more so than ever to target audiences.”

The company invests heavily in consumer research when deciding which movies to invest in or pick up.
“We have to work incredibly hard to find them, and we all have to take risks because no one knows the exact answers,” she says. “In that risk-taking, you really have to do your research and analysis to ensure that what you are investing in are the right properties.”

More than ever before, audiences have to be convinced that a movie is worth watching.

“They are more discerning and more connected than ever and with that we have to bring great films to the table to achieve cut-through,” Pearcey says. “They have to be relevant to our audiences.”

Manzi adds: “We are very choosy. The mantra we use is: ‘You have to love the film.’ Be passionate about it. We have to believe in it, otherwise it probably isn’t for us.”

Ten U.K. Films Backed By Lionsgate U.K.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston
Logline 19th-century England is overrun with the undead, and heroine Elizabeth Bennet is a martial-arts expert.
Director: John Crowley
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston
Logline: A young woman moves from small-town Ireland to Brooklyn, where she strives to forge a new life.
“Testament of Youth”
Director: James Kent
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton
Logline: A woman falls in love with her brother’s close friend, but World War I destroys everything.
“A Little Chaos”
Director: Alan Rickman
Cast: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenearts, Alan Rickman
Logline: A talented landscape designer is chosen to build one of the main gardens at Versailles.
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Cast: Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas
Logline: Fisheries expert is approached by consultant to help realize sheikh’s vision of bringing fly-fishing to the desert
Director: Steven Knight
Cast: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson
Logline: A family man and construction manager receives calls that threaten his carefully cultivated existence.
“What We Did on Our Holiday”
Directors: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
Cast: David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, Billy Connolly
Logline: A family holiday unfolds as a couple attempts to keep impending divorce secret from extended family.
“Eddie the Eagle”
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton, Christopher Walken
Logline: The story of Great Britain’s first ski jumper to enter the Winter Olympics.
“Trespass Against Us”
Director: Adam Smith
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal
Logline: Set across three generations of rowdy Cutler family, who live as outlaws in some of Britain’s richest countryside.
“Their Finest Hour and a Half”
Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy
Logline: A young woman screenwriter finds her way in matters of life, death and the heart.

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