Lionsgate's 'The Hunger Games' to Screen in China

2011/11/15 11:27:00 (Beijing Time)   Source:The Hollywood Reporter    By:Etan Vlessing

TORONTO - Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games isn’t due in theaters until March 2012, but the mini-studio is already ramping up for a global release on a number of fronts, including China.

Lionsgate co-COO Joe Drake last Thursday told entertainment analysts during a morning call that a distribution deal for the major Asian market was in place.

Asked if The Hunger Games will number among the 20 foreign films okayed each year by Chinese authorities for cinematic viewing, Drake answered coyly: “We will be released in China.”

At the same time, the indie studio's first movie in the trilogy of adaptations from Suzanne Collins' novels, set for theatrical release on March 23, 2012, will not screen in Imax theaters.

Drake said other large format theaters owned and operated by major exhibition chains will screen The Hunger Games, but Imax will not follow suit due to a pre-existing agreement with a rival studio.

The latest news on the upcoming release of The Hunger Games came as Lionsgate discussed its latest financial results with analysts.

The big profits to be potentially spun-off from the upcoming March 2012 release and future sequels will go some way to shoring up confidence in Lionsgate’s theatrical release slate, after it posted a $24.6 million Q2 2011 loss Wednesday due to poor box office from Conan the Barbarian, Warrior and Abduction.

With much hinging on how The Hunger Games performs in theaters, Lionsgate is also eyeing an aggressive merchandising program to emerge alongside a lucrative movie franchise from the teen book trilogy.

Vancouver-based Lionsgate has lined up Striker Entertainment, the same licensing and merchandising agency that handles the Twilight franchise for Summit Entertainment.

“We have the same A-team on board. With their guidance, we will be strong in specialty stores, be very present, but not over-push merchandise going into the theatrical release,” Drake told analysts.

The strategy is to first establish the theatrical movie brand before advancing aggressively into big box retailers with The Hunger Games merchandise.

Lionsgate executives also met with international distribution partners at the American Film Market last week, screening the trailer for The Hunger Games and discussing a global day-and-date release pattern.

Drake insisted Lionsgate stands to profit handsomely if the upcoming March 2012 release lives up to expectations and out-performs in global theaters.

“We were able to carve very favorable deals. Not only did we sell the title well, to help mitigate some risk, but we have enormous upside,” he said.

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