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The Onion is looking to get into the movie business.
In its first major studio pact after getting investment from Univision last January, the satirical media brand has partnered with Lionsgate for a three-film development deal that runs through 2018.
No details have been revealed about what reoccurring features, video series or verticals (A ClickHole movie, anyone?) will be mined for the projects, which could result in either digitally distributed titles or theatrically released features.
As part of the deal, Onion Studios has also partnered with production house Serious Business, which produces Comedy Central’s @Midnight, to develop the film titles.
“We’ve plotted our takeover of the film industry for some time,” said Kyle Ryan, vice president of Onion Studios, in a wry statement. “With the help of Serious Business and Lionsgate, we’ll make room on our award shelf for some Oscars. To the basement you go, Pulitzers.”
The Onion, which had been a satirical newspaper for decades before folding its print edition at the end of 2013, has increasingly focused its digital growth efforts on articles sponsored by brands and building out a video studio with multiple reoccurring series.
It’s been a year of change for the venerable media brand. Last January, Spanish-language media company Univision made a significant minority investment in The Onion, paying $200 million for a 40 percent stake, according to analyst estimates at the time.
Now The Onion and sites like The A.V. Club and ClickHole sit alongside a stable of brands owned by Univision that include Fusion and The Root and former Gawker Media sites like Gizmodo, Deadspin and Jezebel.
The deal is the latest for a largely digital media company looking to break into film. Last June, BuzzFeed‘s film division partnered with Warner Bros. to develop a movie for theatrical distribution based on “Brother Orange,” a Matt Stopera story about a lost iPhone that made its way to China. Venture-funded lifestyle brand Refinery29 enlisted Kristen Stewart and Chloe Sevigny to direct short films last year.
Jordan Gilbert, Lionsgate vp of digital production, said in a statement: “This deal represents an expansion of Lionsgate’s breadth of partnerships with meaningful online publishers, while adhering to our core strategy of utilizing nontraditional marketing techniques to help our product to rise above the noise.”
Serious Business, started in 2011, is run by former UTA Online co-founder Jason U. Nadler, @midnight co-creator Jon Zimelis and writer/producer Alex Blagg.
Nadler, who had repped Smosh and College Humor at UTA, had this statement on the new deal: “The Onion has always been one of our favorite comedic institutions, and we’re excited to help them do to the film industry what they’ve already done to publishing. In a good way.”
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