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David Poland

By David Poland

Icahn’s Gate

He tried to take over the bloated Lionsgate many different ways. But company leadership and their board have had too good a time building the company to let Icahn come in and do what they haven’t be able to do… make it work for Wall Street.

And so they fought. They fought him off in every way possible. And when smart people get focused and the #1 focus of the organization is not being taken over by Carl Icahn, positive results can be achieved. And so they have.

Ironically, he was paid less that he was offering to pay for shares of the company. (I thought he’d hold out to get what he had offered others… but I guess he was done wasting his time trying to fight the immovable object.)

Now what?

Lionsgate is a moderately successful studio and distributor of feature films with aging franchise titles, a nice sized TV division and a massive, massive library. Like MGM, they value the company much higher internally than the market does. And so, the opportunity to cash out on a high has never taken place.

A movie or two may be a huge or bomb… it doesn’t really matter. The company is much bigger than any movie (unless they get a Twilight or an Avatar).

So after two years of defensive maneuvering and years before that of doggy paddling, what is the future of this company?

I don’t know. And I don’t think anyone else really knows.

It’s still a tweener. Anyone who would ever buy it for an acceptable price to the management would have to sell pieces of it off to make it work for them. And clearly, management doesn’t like that idea. So it needs to get bigger or smaller.

“Bigger” was a bit of a disaster last year. But they can keep trying. If I were them, I would get very serious about streaming their library and making that work beyond the EPIX relationship. Even though they have more library product (and their complete TV library, which Par splits with CBS), they are living in Paramount’s shadow there. There is finally a real advantage – since the dawn of DVD – to having a very ling tail. Use it. The more expensive movie business… not so much.

“Smaller” means selling off some of the acquired holdings. Could try spinning off TV. Could turn the library into a separate business. Could make the production side even smaller.

I guess time will tell…

4 Responses to “Icahn’s Gate”

  1. Madam Pince says:

    Lionsgate is banking on the Hunger Games becoming the next big franchise, right? I don’t know if that is going to pan out. Lots of talk about how the teaser was a huge let down. It looked oddly low rent to me. It didn’t have that expensive sheen I typically associate with mid-budget and up films. It had the aura of a direct-to-dvd slasher flick, with the frightened girl running through cheap woods. Even a random clip from Supernatural has a more cinematic quality than the Hunger Games teaser, and that is low budget TV.

  2. participant42 says:

    That’s sheer nonsense, Ms. Prince: there’s nothing in that clip the says low production values or any other negative. It clearly wasn’t intended as a “blow you away” action clip. And so what. Perhaps some 13-year-olds thought that the little tease should be boom-explosive.
    Just wait for the movie, and then make an *informed* judgement.

  3. Triple Option says:

    participant42, it seems as if Madam Pince was just offering an opinion based on an observation. You may not share the opinion but couldn’t you offer your rebuttal without the attack mode? Heck, up the sarcasm or snark but I think any point you were trying to make was lost in your presentation.

  4. Storymark says:

    Having seen many teens clustered around computer screens at school to watch that lackluster teaser…. I think it’ll do just fine.

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin