The top two Lionsgate executives have told shareholders that the media conglomerate is poised to thrive amid the post-pandemic environment.
“We had a strong and successful year moving our company forward in fiscal 2020 despite the extraordinary challenges of the global pandemic, creating lasting and incremental value across our film, television and Starz businesses,” said chief executive officer Jon Feltheimer and vice chairman Michael Burns in their letter to shareholders at Tuesday’s annual meeting.
“It was a year in which we added exciting new franchises to our content portfolio, extended a number of our major brands while cultivating new ones, renewed our key television series and continued the transformation of Starz into a valuable premium global streaming platform distinguished by the quality of its content, the focus of its offering and its unique ability to complement other services,” they said.
A month ago, Lionsgate reported earnings of $51.1 million, or 23 cents a share, on revenues of $813.7 million for its first fiscal quarter ending June 30 — numbers that were above Wall Street estimates amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In the previous quarter, Lionsgate took a charge of $50.5 million due to the pandemic. Feltheimer and Burns said Tuesday that Lionsgate will be “stronger than ever” during the current fiscal year.
“When the pandemic hit in March, we quickly transitioned our non-essential employees to work safely from home, redeployed resources according to the areas of greatest need, ensured that our businesses were positioned to continue delivering premium quality entertainment to the large at home audience and took immediate steps to conserve cash in order to protect a healthy balance sheet,” they said.
“As a result, we were able to mitigate many of the adverse impacts of the pandemic and resulting economic downturn,” they added. “We enter fiscal 2021 with protocols in place to operate successfully in the ‘new normal,’ full pipelines of film and television content ready to resume production, and a complete re-imagining of all of our businesses that positions them to emerge from the current environment stronger than ever.”
Burns and Feltheimer said the Starz network has been transformed into a global streaming leader, thanks to “Outlander,” “Hightown,” “P-Valley,” the “Power” franchise and its streaming partners Amazon Prime and Apple along with local distributors Vodafone, Orange, Virgin Media, Bell Media, Izzi & Rakuten.
Lionsgate had also announced last month that it was expanding two of its key franchises, with a fifth “John Wick” movie and a “Dirty Dancing” reboot with Jennifer Grey. Feltheimer and Burns noted Tuesday that the company is developing “Now You See Me 3,” “Hunger Games” prequel “The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” and projects based on “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” and “Borderlands,” starring Cate Blanchett and directed by Eli Roth. Still, Lionsgate has not had a movie in theaters since March.
“There are a number of uncertainties surrounding when theaters will re-open, how quickly moviegoers will return and when production can safely resume,” Feltheimer and Burns said. “But our confidence in the future of our theatrical business is undiminished, bolstered by the continued demand for movies across every kind of platform, the quality and excitement of the content we bring to our audiences and distribution partners, the flexibility built into our diverse portfolio of movies, and our longstanding ability to pivot quickly and change with a changing world.”
They admitted that the “extraordinary” circumstances of recent months have tested the company, then added, “But our employees have risen to the challenge with resilience, resourcefulness and a ‘can do’ collaborative team spirit, and we enter the new fiscal year in good shape operationally, strategically and financially.”
Shareholders also approved with 97% support the appointment of former Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn as a board member with 97% of vote. Clyburn becomes the first African American executive on the board and the fourth woman on the panel.
Shareholders also approved by 92% the executive compensation for Feltheimer and Burns. Feltheimer’s compensation for the fiscal year that ended March 31 increased from $6.6 million to $11.07 million due to a $6.3 million bonus. Burns saw compensation rise from $5.18 million to $6.37 million, thanks to a $3.15 million bonus.