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Lionsgate Signs Faith-Based ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Filmmakers to First-Look Deal

In an expansion in the faith-based market, Lionsgate has signed a film and television first-look deal with Andrew and Jon Erwin and producing partner Kevin Downes, the team behind “I Can Only Imagine.”

The announcement was made Thursday by Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chairman Joe Drake and Television Group chairman Kevin Beggs. As part of the multi-year agreement, the Erwin brothers and Downes will develop, produce, and direct feature films and television programming for Lionsgate under their newly created Kingdom banner.

Lionsgate noted that it has seen successes in the faith-based community, which include “Hacksaw Ridge,” “The Shack,” and “I Can Only Imagine,” the highest-grossing movie in the history of Lionsgate affiliate Roadside Attractions with $83 million domestically on a $7 million budget. The company noted that the Erwin brothers are one of only a handful of directors to have received an A+ CinemaScore twice, having accomplished the feat on “I Can Only Imagine” and “Woodlawn.”

“We’re proud to expand our relationship with Andrew, Jon and Kevin through this exciting and collaborative, cross-divisional partnership,” said Drake and Beggs. “This deal underscores our ongoing commitment to serve moviegoers with premium, faith-based content. We look forward to working with the Erwin Brothers and Kevin on film and television projects that resonate not only with the faith-based community but with viewers everywhere.”

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Lionsgate noted that its other “creative partnerships” include Paul Feig, Eugenio Derbez, Kevin Hart, Eric and Kim Tannenbaum, Justin Simien, Courtney Kemp, Yvette Lee Bowser, Ed Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz, and John Goldwyn.

Jon Feltheimer, chief executive officer, touted the agreement during Thursday’s conference call with Wall Street analysts following the company’s quarterly earnings report — which came in above estimates. “You can expect to see a number of new talent deals in the coming weeks,” he added.

John Erwin said in a statement, “Our dream for launching Kingdom is to create the most trusted and respected brand in faith-based entertainment. We needed a partner that would catch that dream with us and Lionsgate is the perfect fit. They aren’t like any other studio we’ve ever worked with and they have a passion to empower creative entrepreneurs. We can’t wait to work together on some exciting new projects.”

Downes said, “We’re thrilled to begin this new venture with Joe, Kevin and the rest of the incredible Lionsgate team. We have seen firsthand how Lionsgate champions an artist’s individuality and creativity. They have a proven track-record for reaching targeted audiences with diverse, high-end content and we could not be more thrilled to call Lionsgate our new home.”

The deal was negotiated for Lionsgate by Jason Constantine, Eda Kowan, Bonnie Stylides, and Adrian Lopez. The Erwin brothers and Downes are represented by WME and Matthew Johnson at Ziffren, Brittenham.

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