Lionsgate cuts 17 positions

Layoffs spread out across all divisions

Lionsgate Entertainment is cutting its work force by 8%, with 17 employees notified Friday of their part in the downsizing.

The cuts include layoffs across all divisions, though the other 24 slots constitute positions unfilled through attrition during the past year.

While the layoffs were not unexpected given the current financial climate, they run counter to Lionsgate's recent business fortunes. While such early-fall releases as "Bangkok Dangerous," "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Disaster Movie" underperformed, the studio's "Saw" franchise, Tyler Perry pictures and critically lauded TV shows including "Weeds" and "Mad Men" have succeeded in tandem with its expansive purchases of TV distributor Debmar-Mercury, RedBus Film Distributors and Mandate Pictures and the launch of Fear.net.

Lionsgate still aims for 16-18 films annually, most of them wide releases. The company is aiming for revenue in the neighborhood of $1.6 billion this year, with the feature film piece of the pie on pace to crest $500 million for the first time.

Lionsgate's growing home entertainment business has nearly 8% of the market. Its pay movie service with Paramount and MGM is slotted for an October launch.

"Our businesses are performing well, but this is a very challenging environment, and we had to make these cuts in order to continue doing well," Lionsgate spokesman Peter Wilkes said. "And this is part of our ongoing commitment to very disciplined growth."

Since Lionsgate purchased Artisan Entertainment in 2004, the staff has increased from 350 employees to 550, mostly through its acquisitions. A hiring freeze was instituted in the summer.

The publicly traded company delivers its second-quarter earnings Monday.
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