Based on this morning’s nearly 6%-plus pop in Lionsgate’s share price, you’d never know how badly the company’s fiscal Q3 report released last night fell short of analyst forecasts. The market is forward looking, though, and Lionsgate execs filled their morning conference call with upbeat talk about their movie and TV plans. CEO Jon Feltheimer has high hopes for Charlie Sheen’s upcoming series on FX, Anger Management. The first 10 episodes begin production March 19. If they do well, then it “will be one of our most profitable series ever,” Feltheimer says, adding that Sheen “resonates with audiences around the world.” The company expects to have Anger Management double run in syndication much earlier than usual, and to have repeats on FX within 2 1/2 years. “We would be shooting it about twice as fast as you’d typically shoot a network show,” Feltheimer said. Now that its acquisition of Summit Entertainment has closed, the company is also cheering tonight’s home video release of Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1; the second-to-last Twilight installment will be out earlier than usual to coincide with Valentine’s Day. Lionsgate expects it to sell about as well as the previous film from the series, Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Many stores, including several Walmarts, will stay open past midnight to accomodate fans who can’t wait. Trailers for Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 2 will debut at showings of The Hunger Games beginning on its opening night. Not surprisingly, Lionsgate co-chair Rob Friedman says that if author Stephenie Meyer wants to write another Twilight installment, then “we’ll be there to support her.”
On the television front, Lionsgate execs are excited about the March 25 debut of the new season of Mad Men on AMC. Since the date falls within the current quarter, it could provide a nice jolt for Lionsgate’s next report: Accounting rules allow the company to recognize the revenues from episodes as soon as they’re delivered to AMC, and most are already in the can. Feltheimer’s also enthusiastic about two of the company’s pilots, Nashville for ABC and Next Caller Please for NBC. He adds that the syndicated The Wendy Williams Show “turned an important corner” in the ratings. “We believe Wendy (could) be in business for a very long time” — and is poised to increase ad rates to levels comparable with other day time talk shows. On a much smaller scale, Feltheimer says he likes what he has seen from Lionsgate’s new “Be Fit” channel on YouTube. The company has launched over 200 minutes of new programming and “in its first 3 weeks it has already attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers.”
On other matters, Lionsgate says it has a 25% stake in a movie based on the novel Ender’s Game which is due to be released in mid-2013. Following the Summit acquisition, execs are looking to consolidate their home video distribution efforts: Its own films are handled by Fox while Summit has a deal with Universal. The company remains “very bullish on the home video business overall,” says co-COO Steve Beeks. Although total sales are declining “we’re looking at the operating margin as opposed to revenue, and that continues to grow.” Feltheimer also had nice things to say about the TV Guide Network, which Lionsgate is known to be shopping. “We’d like to see our ratings pick up, but we’re pretty much on track with our financials,” he says. “We think this is a unique, non-replicable asset.” Execs also said that they were encouraged by their initial efforts to offer discounts through Groupon for Lincoln Lawyer and One For the Money.