Lionsgate execs today are despondent as they try to figure out what went wrong for Conan The Barbarian to only earn a dismal $10.5M from 3,015 theaters. “It’s one of those weekends that gives me a stomach ache,” one Lionsgate exec told me Friday night. “It’s a headscratcher, but it won’t kill us.” But they also know that with Carl Icahn back breathing down Lionsgate’s mane by buying up company shares, and the annual stockholders meeting scheduled for Sept. 13, this is a really lousy time for this secondary studio to have such a box office bomb. Over the last two weeks, Icahn has acquired 756,840 shares in Lionsgate, growing his ownership to 33.2% from 32.6%, presumably in his so-far-unsuccessful effort to gift his son Brent with a Hollywood studio. Last year, Icahn tried but failed to seize control and, after a brief respite, he’s trying yet again, all the while carping about Lionsgate’s profligate management and moviemaking strategy. Here’s more ammunition for him. First off, being in business with Avi Lerner’s Nu Image/Millennium film company is a dicey proposition at best. Especially when this reboot cost nearly $90M, which makes this weekend’s opening disastrous even if Lionsgate’s exposure was mitigated by the co-production and co-release. Not even spreading the buzz that previous Conan the Barbarian Arnold Schwarzenegger was treated to a private screening and “really liked it” helped box office, which didn’t come near to even Lionsgate’s low-ball expectation of $15M from a wide release. (more…)