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AFM: Lionsgate’s Patrick Wachsberger Promises Bright Days Ahead

Lionsgate, the biggest player in the independent market, is coming to AFM with one of its most ambitious slates following what’s been a year of mixed performance at best.

Expectations for Lionsgate had been elevated in recent years by the successes of the “Hunger Games” and “Twilight” franchises. “Now You See Me 2” was a winner but 2016 also saw “Allegiant,” “Gods of Egypt,” and “Deepwater Horizon” struggle.

Patrick Waschsberger, co-chairman of the studio’s motion picture group, remains optimistic. The longtime expert in foreign sales admits he’s still asked about “The Hunger Games” (with $2.8 billion in worldwide grosses) and “The Twilight Saga” ($3.3 billion).

“I tell people to be patient when they ask about another ‘Hunger Games,'” he said. “Independents have a more difficult time. And we’ve got a pretty strong slate that’s very diversified.”

Lionsgate is still taking big swings via its model of using pre-sales to reduce its risk. It made a big bet at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival when it won rights to science-fiction thriller “Kin,” starring Jack Reynor, James Franco, Zoe Kravitz and Dennis Quaid for about $25 million. It will show footage at AFM.

It is shooting supernatural drama “Down a Dark Hall” in Spain with AnnaSophia Robb and Isabelle Fuhrman; Uma Thurman recently boarded the pic. Lionsgate acquired rights in 2014 with “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer and “Twilight” movie franchise producers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen on broad to produce.

Lionsgate is also shooting “Soldado,” a follow-up to Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario,” to be directed by Italian helmer Stefano Sollima with Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin attached to star. The script is by Taylor Sheridan, who also penned “Sicario.” Shooting has started in New Mexico.

“Everyone wanted to see what happened with those characters and the script is brilliant,” Wachsberger said.

Lionsgate is also reviving the durable “Saw” franchise via “Saw Legacy” for a 2017 release — seven years after “Saw 3D” — with Michael and Peter Spierig directing.

Lionsgate’s AFM slate includes three films on which it’s not the domestic distributor — Afghanistan war drama “Horse Soldiers,” with Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon with Jerry Bruckheimer producing; Roman Polanski’s “Based on a True Story,” starring Eva Green and Emmanuelle Seigner; and the animated “Playmobil,” based on the German toy line.

Open Road bought domestic rights to “Playmobil” at Cannes. “It’s as big as Lego in the rest of the world,” Wachsberger noted.

Wachsberger’s longtime associate Rob Friedman announced in September that he was transitioning out of his post as co-chairman of the motion picture group to become a consultant to CEO Jon Feltheimer.

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