Lionsgate getting all dolled up

Minimajor becomes lone 'Bratz' distributor in U.S.

Barbie might have left the building, but a bunch of "Bratz" are taking her place.

Lionsgate, the feisty minimajor that for years has been one of the leading suppliers in the children's nontheatrical DVD market, is expected to announce today that it is becoming the sole U.S. distributor for the entire "Bratz" DVD catalog, including five titles previously distributed in the domestic market by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Lionsgate also will distribute two new "Bratz" animated DVD titles next year, beginning in February with "Bratz Kidz Fairy Tales." They will be distributed in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

The exclusive arrangement comes as part of a newly extended agreement between Lionsgate and MGA Entertainment. The companies initially partnered last year for the distribution of new direct-to-DVD "Bratz" productions as well as "Bratz: The Movie," the first live-action feature film based on the top-selling brand of fashion dolls.

"Bratz" opened theatrically in August and grossed $10 million in U.S. theaters; the film arrived Nov. 27 on DVD backed by an essay contest sweepstakes in which Lionsgate is offering four scholarships valued at $60,000.

Lionsgate this year will release new "Bratz" interactive DVDs based on an agreement with Bratz licensee XLT. The minimajor also has gained North American VOD and electronic sell-through rights for the "Bratz" catalog and VOD/EST rights for the U.K. and Ireland for two new titles in 2008.

"The Bratz brand continues to dominate the North American market, and we believe that there is unlimited growth potential in the U.K., where the brand has been a true phenomenon," said Anne Parducci, executive vp marketing and family entertainment at Lionsgate. "By presenting all home entertainment products under one roof, including new digital platforms, we are encountering far greater opportunities to increase catalog sales and brand awareness."

During the past two years, more than 4 million "Bratz" DVDs have been shipped to retailers, in addition to 500,000 CDs.

Parducci said that while new "Barbie" productions have moved to Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Lionsgate continues to distribute a healthy chunk of catalog "Barbie" product.

But in terms of new releases, "Bratz" is now the supplier's primary product line for girls 6-10. It also is a key driver in the lucrative children's nontheatrical market, where Lionsgate enjoys a consistent fourth-place ranking behind Walt Disney Studios, Warner and Paramount.

"I think that's quite commendable because we don't have a network feeding us programming," Parducci said. "Everything we have, we have to go out and acquire."

Parducci said that while Lionsgate has its boy bases covered with its Marvel Animated Features, the extended MGA deal gives it a significantly greater role in the young girls market, which is a lot easier to market to.

"I do think the boys side is more challenging because they tend to get into video games, and by the time they are 8 they are pretty much entrenched in gaming," she said. "But with girls, we're still able to reach the 6- to 10-year-olds."