The companies announced a pact under which they will jointly develop, produce and distribute films. Those will have “unique, primarily digital, distribution strategies,” according to the announcement: In other words, don’t expect to see many of these movies hitting theaters.
Lionsgate and BuzzFeed plan to launch their first co-production in 2021. The companies said they have “a number of films” in development, but didn’t provide details.
The parties said they will tap into a “wide range of talent, from award-winning filmmakers to emerging new voices” and that the aim of the deal is to “elevate contemporary, authentic storytellers.” Some of the movie projects will be based on BuzzFeed intellectual property.
The Lionsgate/BuzzFeed development process will use data from BuzzFeed’s audience-analytics team coupled with the studio’s day-and-date release model, according to the companies.
It’s the latest attempt by BuzzFeed to extend its digital-centric business to traditional entertainment. Six years ago, the company renamed its video business unit “BuzzFeed Motion Pictures” and had ambitious plans to launch movies. It has produced some TV shows, including “Follow This” for Netflix, and inked a Warner Bros. development deal for “Brother Orange” based on a BuzzFeed article.
But as BuzzFeed faced revenue shortfalls, the company scaled back original video projects in a series of layoffs and restructurings. In March 2019, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said in a staff memo that the company was focused on producing “high-quality content at massive scale and low cost,” adding: “We don’t make shitty TV, we make good internet.”
Richard Alan Reid, senior VP of global content and film at BuzzFeed, said the pact with Lionsgate “marks a new chapter for BuzzFeed and our studio endeavors.”
“We are expanding our strategy to include long-form content, with a slate that celebrates identity, diversity and youth culture, and concepts that highlight themes and characters not typically at the center of pop movies,” Reid said in a statement.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with BuzzFeed to expand our digital footprint with a slate of original films that speak to their highly engaged audience,” Lauren Bixby, Lionsgate’s VP of acquisitions and co-productions, said in a statement. “With our innovative marketing strategy and agile distribution teams, combined with BuzzFeed’s impressive and extensive global reach, the partnership will allow two entrepreneurial companies to work together to develop some great IP.”
Jason Moring and Michael Philip of production company CR8IV DNA will serve as consultants for the Lionsgate/BuzzFeed movie partnership.