'Saw 7' among Lionsgate brand pushes

Vice chairman Michael Burns reveals 3D 'Saw' film

NEW YORK -- There will be a "Saw 7," Tyler Perry is a machine, and "Precious" is a passion of ours -- that was how Lionsgate vice chairman put it in describing just how much the mini-major believes in control of content as the basis for the company's growth.

Michael Burns was speaking at the Media and Money conference in New York on Thursday, where he put the accent on branded franchises as the key to competing effectively in the media space. That means making money over a long period and through many iterations of product, he told the audience.

Despite a disappointing performance by "Saw VI," which Burns attributed to getting "buzz-sawed" at the boxoffice by "Paranormal Activity," he said it was full steam ahead on the seventh installment, which will be in 3D.

"As long as we make money on it we'll keep doing this," he said, pointing out that such franchises tend to have a long shelf life across different platforms. "Dirty Dancing," he pointed out, still sells 2,000 DVDs a day for the company, and that's after 20 years.

While the company prides itself on rigorous cost control, Burns said that "passion goes a long way at Lionsgate" as well, pointing to the company's backing of the current movie "Precious" and the Oscar-winning "Crash," which none of the big studios wished to touch. Asked by The Hollywood Reporter's business editor Georg Szalai whether the relationship with Tyler Perry might have an end date, Burns put the accent on all the different parts of Perry's activities that Lionsgate is involved with -- not just movies but TV shows, theatrical plays and other projects and on the personal relationship with Perry. Burns said he thinks the arrangement was working effectively for both sides.

As for Lionsgate's investment in TV Guide Channel, Burns said in addition to more syndie rights (a la "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Ugly Betty") there would likely be original programming, most probably nonfiction series, in the outlet's future.

In short, the vice chair concluded, despite the economy, "it's a great time to own and control content." Libraries, he added, have been dissed of late but that's just because it takes fresh product to keep them dusted-off and viable.  MGM? It would be interesting -- the Bonds and the half of "The Hobbit" -- but, he suggested, Time Warner is probably bent on spending whatever it takes to get it.
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