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Lionsgate Vice-Chair Says Studio Needs to Get Bigger

Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns has asserted that the studio will continue to look for acquisitions, following its purchase of 3 Arts Entertainment in the spring.

“We’re always taking the acquisition approach,” he said Thursday at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference.

Burns became vice chairman of Lionsgate in 2000, the same year that Jon Feltheimer became CEO. The company has executed 17 acquisitions since then, highlighted by the 2003 deal for Artisan, the 2012 buyout of Summit and the $4 billion purchase of premium cabler Starz in 2016.

Lionsgate, which has revenues of about $4 billion a year, has been the subject of buyout rumors this year as the entertainment sector consolidates. Burns offered a vague outlook on that front.

“We’re predator — until we’re prey,” he said. “We do believe that we need to be bigger. We really are a predator for the moment, or maybe we will turn to prey or maybe we will continue to gobble up companies. No one has a crystal ball.”

Burns told the conference that the deal for talent management firm 3 Arts was aimed at improving Liosngate’s access to Hollywood’s creative talent. Feltheimer noted earlier this week at the annual shareholders meeting that 3 Arts deal led to “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 — with more projects coming soon.

Burns and Starz CEO Chris Albrecht said Thursday that the 3 Arts deal is aimed at expanding the Starz premium cable channel and OTT pipeline. “We think we got a great deal, 3 Arts got a great deal, and talent got a great deal,” Albrecht said.

Feltheimer announced at the shareholders meeting that Starz has crossed the three million over-the-top subscriber mark — not including the more than one million additional subscribers across Starz’s international platforms and partners.

Burns also issued a bullish outlook for the studio’s movie operations, which have been reorganized with Joe Drake and Nathan Kahane coming in to run the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group. He said it’s probable that there will be more than one “Kingkiller Chronicles” film if the first — to be directed by Sam Raimi — is successful.

Burns also hinted that Lionsgate — the studio behind the “Saw” franchise — will make a splash in the horror arena, which has been recently dominated recently by Universal through Blumhouse and Warner Bros. with “It” and the “Conjuring” series.

“We used to own horror,” he said. “We’re going to own it again.”

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