Shooting on the follow-up to last year’s sleeper hit Now You See Me will take place in the U.S., Europe, and Asia “to capitalize on the property’s international appeal, with most of the original cast returning, and some exciting new additions,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told analysts this morning in a call to discuss the company’s fiscal Q3 earnings. He added later that execs “absolutely see it as a franchise. We’re going to add some cast to it. We see it as an ongoing situation.” Execs pushed the theme of Lionsgate as an incubator for franchises; Feltheimer says the company has “an ability to assemble and mine the richest and most diverse portfolios of [intellectual property] in the industry.” He considers upcoming films Gods Of Egypt, Chaos Walking, and Mordecai (“a character that Johnny Depp loves,” he says) as “potential franchises — later adding The Last Witch Hunter with Vin Diesel to the list plus “another one we hope to announce shortly.” Speaking of franchises, the CEO said that timetable for the Hunger Games series remains “unchanged” — with releases planned for late November this year and next — following the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. “We’re fortunate to have his incredible talent grace our Hunger Games family,” Feltheimer says. “We send our deepest condolences to all who were close to him.” The CEO also talked up the Divergent series, noting that the studio is “gearing up to begin shooting Insurgent, the second film in the franchise, this summer in order to make our March 2015 release date.”
In addition to the prospective gains from the new films, execs say that new technologies including 4K home video should revive library sales. “Everyone’s library is undervalued,” Feltheimer says. He’s particularly upbeat about Comcast’s entry into the electronic sell-through business. The cable company already accounts for 15% of EST sales — and the business will take off as other cable and satellite distributors join in. Co-COO Steve Beeks says that one of the big stories of the year-ending quarter was that “EST is growing faster than anyone expected” helping to bring the decline in home video “to a virtual stop.” Soon, he added, “you’ll see margin dollars growing again.”
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