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The Ride Along 2 star, through his Hartbeat Digital banner, has inked a deal with the studio to launch a video-on-demand service called Laugh Out Loud that will become the exclusive home for all his work beyond his film roles and live standup performances. Hart will also work with Lionsgate to create and star in a social, mobile adventure game.
Hart already has a prolific film career, starring in such projects as Get Hard, The Wedding Ringer and About Last Night, while also maintaining an audience for his comedy through standup tours and specials, including 2013’s Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain distributed under Lionsgate’s Summit banner. Now the comedian — who is active on social media, with more than 32 million followers on Instagram and 27 million followers on Twitter — sees opportunity in the digital space.
“Lionsgate has always been a great partner of mine, and I’m more than excited to take our business and creative relationship to new levels,” said Hart. “I understand the direction in which the television business is headed, and I see this big new space toward which audiences are starting to gravitate. I believe that launching this venture together now puts us ahead of the pack.”
Jeff Clanagan, who serves as CEO for Lionsgate’s Codeblack Films division and has a longstanding business partnership with Hart, has been named president of both Hartbeat Digital and Laugh Out Loud. He tells The Hollywood Reporter that he and Hart have been planning Laugh Out Loud and the mobile game for the better part of the last year as a key component to reaching Hart’s his global fan base. “Kevin’s reach goes far beyond stateside,” says Clanagan, who called from the Abu Dhabi stop on Hart’s comedy tour. “We’re looking at this from a global standpoint, and digital and mobile is the way that we are able to reach a global audience quickly.”
Clanagan adds that Hart wants to develop new talent through Laugh Out Loud, which will feature content curated by Hart alongside original series that showcase social media stars and emerging comedians. The network will bring on established directors, writers and producers to guide them through their projects.
Lough Out Loud will start with short-form sketch, unscripted and scripted series that are 3 to 5 minutes in length. Projects are already in development for the service, including a hidden camera series in which Hart goes undercover as a Lyft driver and a series featuring Vine star Logan Paul. There will be a paywall for long-form content, including a 30-minute special shot recently while Hart was touring in Africa.
Laugh Out Loud will be Lionsgate’s third over-the-top service, following Tribeca ShortList, which launched last fall through a partnership with Tribeca Enterprises, and Comic-Con HQ, which will become available this summer in affiliation with Comic-Con International.
Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said he was “proud” to kick off the partnership with Hart. “He is an incredibly versatile talent who will bring his unique comedic voice to Laugh Out Loud’s entire spectrum of original content, and his ever expanding global fan base gives both initiatives tremendous growth potential,” he added. “Nobody understands how to continue extending Kevin’s brand better than Jeff Clanagan, and we’re pleased that he will lead the new platform’s growth.”
Hart and Lionsgate have teamed with game developer Fifth Journey to conceive the mobile game, which will turn players into comedy stars who turn to Hart for mentorship as they embark on adventures that take them on a nationwide tour and have them starring in feature films and hosting awards shows. “Kevin’s social audience is close to 80 million,” says Clanagan. “We want to create products that we can market for those followers, and gaming is a natural evolution for Kevin.”
The deal was negotiated for Hart by Stephen Barnes of Barnes Morris and for Lionsgate by executive vp corporate development Laura Kennedy and executive vp and deputy general counsel Audrey Lee. Peter Levin, president of interactive ventures and games at Lionsgate, and executive Daniel Engelhardt handled the game negotiations for the studio.
March 31, 12:33 p.m. Updated with comments from Clanagan.
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