Lionsgate Rising: A Conversation With Michael Burns

This is the third and final installment of Cheryl’s thoughts on PGA’s 2012 Produced By seminars.

Sony Pictures is a really beautiful and green lot. Lunch was set up out on the lawn and the weather was wonderful with the ocean breeze. I’m glad I have some time before my next session, Lionsgate Rising: A Conversation With Michael Burns, to meet some other creatives and see what they are doing.

Lionsgate started in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is considered the most commercially successful independent film and television distribution company in North America. How did they get here? Well they decided to buy up all the content they could. They bought Trimark, Cinepex, and Artisan, making Lionsgate library of films over 13,000 titles.

American Psycho in 2000, was their first box office success. Affliction, Gods and Monsters, Dogma and Saw are just some of the films that followed. Monsters Ball and Halle Berry’s Oscar nomination for her role is what really turned things around.

Michael says, ‘you need to know who is going to show up opening weekend’. A strong opening weekend is key and you need to know your movie is going to play and play and play.

What has worked so well for Lionsgate are their franchises’. The Tyler Perry films, Saw, Expendibles, The Hunger Games, the Twilight Saga (Summit Entertainment), to name a few.

What people don’t realize is TV is more profitable than film. Cable is where the TV money is.

Lionsgate has inked a deal with Netflix that will make Netflix the exclusive subscription streaming service in the UK and Ireland for first-run features from the studio. Content has turned into an impulse buy. There’s Redbox, Netflix, Video on Demand. The people who use these ways to watch movies are not the people who go to Target or Walmart to buy/own a film.

Subscription based, a la carte, is the future.

People want to watch great content on whatever medium they can get it.

Lionsgate does all pre-sales for their films and they stick with distributors they have relationships with. Surprisingly, Hunger Games sold to China without any changes. -CC

Some key points from Michael:

1) Have a hook you can market. With Saw, it was kill or be killed. This worked.

2) Rise above the clutter. Make sure that yours rises above the bombardment of advertising.

3) If the script isn’t ready, wait.

4) Options control great content. If you own content someone wants, this is the key to success.

5) Be able to pitch fast

6) FIND THE RIGHT OPENING WEEKEND.

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