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Lionsgate’s Jon Feltheimer Offers Bullish Outlook

Lionsgate chief executive officer Jon Feltheimer has told shareholders the entertainment company will continue to thrive due to its ability to reach targeted audiences.

“From our beginnings as a small independent studio, we’ve asked ourselves every day how we can best continue to grow and compete effectively in a world where so many around us have such enormous scale,” he said Tuesday. “And the answer is that we’re committed to our own approach, playing our own game, and continuing to apply the core values with which we began. From day one, agnostic to distribution platform, we’ve focused instead on making bold, original content for targeted audiences that we can reach efficiently.”

Lionsgate’s annual shareholders meeting was held at its traditional time and place — on the Tuesday of the Toronto Film Festival at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. It comes two years after Lionsgate paid $4.1 billion to buy premium cabler Starz with the goal of competing effectively with top-tier conglomerates.

“The result is that demand for Starz content is greater than ever, driving growth in traditional, over-the-top, and international subscribers,” Feltheimer said Tuesday. “This morning I’m happy to report that Starz has crossed the three million over-the-top subscriber mark, and I should note that our subscriber totals don’t include the more than one million additional subscribers across Starz’s international platforms and partners.”

Feltheimer also noted Lionsgate bought management-production powerhouse 3 Arts Entertainment in May with the goal of increasing its ability to partner with top Hollywood talent.

“Since that announcement, we’ve been working with them every day on exciting new projects, charging out of the blocks with ‘Florida Girls,’ a new series for Pop, and an original comedy series for Apple from ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ creators Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day,” Feltheimer said. “In the coming weeks, we expect to announce new projects with some of their top content creators.”

Additionally, Feltheimer touted Lionsgate’s business model for feature films with the company’s practice of financing through foreign sales, which limits risk. He said, “Over 90% of our films last year were profitable, with continued emphasis on bold, original movies like ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard,’ ‘I Can Only Imagine’ and ‘Wonder.'”

The executive also pointed to Liosngate’s TV operations, which include “Orange is the New Black,” “Greenleaf,” “MacGyver,” “Dear White People” and “The Joel McHale Show.”

“We continue to be a prolific intellectual property machine, with nearly 60 shows currently in various stages of production in 12 territories around the world,” Felteimer said. “We bring this premium programming to our partners with innovative business models designed specifically for their platforms. Apple, Facebook and Charter are just a few of the new partners for whom we began preparing and launching series in the year.”

The meeting also saw the election of Susan McCaw and John Malone’s nephew Daniel Sanchez to seats on its board of directors to replace media mogul Malone and venture capitalist Scott Paterson. Malone and Paterson disclosed in July that they had decided to retire at the end of their current term in September at the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

The Starz deal left Malone as Lionsgate’s second-largest shareholder with about 10%. Mark Rachesky is Liongate’s largest shareholder at 18.4% and serves as chairman. Malone, 77, is the majority owner of Liberty Media, Liberty Global, and Qurate Retail Group.

The other 11 members of the Lionsgate board — who were re-elected Tuesday — include Rachesky, vice chairman Michael Burns, Feltheimer, Gordon Crawford, Emily Fine, Michael T. Fries, Lucian Grainge, Daryl Simm, Hardwick Simmons, and David Zaslav.

Feltheimer began his remarks Tuesday by welcoming McCaw and Sanchez to “our Lionsgate family.”

“You’re joining a Board I consider to be the most knowledgeable in the business,” he added. “Thank you all for your guidance.”

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