Lionsgate exec talks DVD, VOD

Says 'Punisher' won't lose more than a few million

NEW YORK -- Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns doesn't expect day-and-date cable VOD releases of new DVD product to see a breakthrough in the near term.

Speaking at the annual Global Media and Communications Conference, organized by investment bank UBS, he also promised his studio's flopped release "Punisher: War Zone" won't lose the studio more than a few million dollars.

Burns provided laughs after an opening video, joking that he was glad the video contained no clips of the "Punisher" sequel. "There's always DVD, and I'm sure we'll outperform there," he promised.

The movie cost $22 million to release, and it made about $4 million so far, he said. Overall, he expects to lose $4 million-$5 million at most on the film, he added, saying it's an example of Lionsgate's solid risk mitigation strategy.

He also said he is confident that the studio will overcome recent boxoffice disappointment to end the year up.

Burns suggested that the post-Thanksgiving release slot for "Punisher" was a risky play as the studio had the latest "Transporter" out before and there were few slots left.

In the future, such problems could become less prevalent because of a lack of funding for Hollywood in the current credit crunch. "Less money out there helps, because it is still difficult to find a release date," he said.

Burns also said he wouldn't be surprised if, down the line, "The Dark Knight" became the first film to sell 1 million-plus Blu-ray Discs, after its release Tuesday.

Asked about day-and-date cable VOD, Burns told the UBS crowd retail relationships are still too important for studios. "We're not really in a position to ... (we don't) want to piss off retailers," he said, adding he has concerns that day-and-date could cannibalize DVD sales.

Asked about U.S. states' incentives to attract productions, Burns said he was glad to see Bill Richardson join the Obama administration as he provided a lot of production incentives as governor of New Mexico and may promote the entertainment industry's interests in Washington. Burns said New Mexico got something like $8 of revenue for every dollar spent on production subsidies.

"The country is looking to put people back to work, and the film and TV businesses employ a lot people," he said.
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