Lionsgate roars into Quebec with $400 mil deal


TORONTO -- Lionsgate said Wednesday that it has signed a four-year, $400 million financing pact with the Quebec government to make movies and TV series in the province.

Vancouver-based Lionsgate said the Societe generale de financement du Quebec (SGF), which invests in Quebec films on behalf of the provincial government, will finance up to 35% of production costs for a film and TV slate in Quebec -- an aggregate investment of $140 million.

Lionsgate will cover the remaining $260 million in possible local production over the next four years.

The first project from the new deal is the next installment in Marvel's "Punisher" franchise, starring Ray Stevenson ("Rome") and directed by Lexi Alexander. The film begins shooting in October in Montreal.

A Lionsgate spokesman said the SGF financing deal will cover mostly TV series production. The Canadian-based producer recently completed shooting on the sixth season of the USA Network's "The Dead Zone" in Montreal after shifting the series from Vancouver.

To help underwrite movie production, Lionsgate in May unveiled a separate $400 million, 23-picture theatrical slate financing pact with a consortium led by Goldman Sachs & Co.

The company has done similar production deals in New Mexico, Louisiana and Pennsylvania in recent years to trim production costs on projects by taking on financing partners.

SGF chairman and president Pierre Shedleur said that the Lionsgate pact will create an estimated 6,700 full-time jobs and total wages of $270 million in the province.

The Canadian government routinely subsidizes Hollywood shoots by offering American and other foreign producers tax credits and other enticements to shoot on location here. But few politicians here put money on the table to lure U.S. producers, preferring to direct investment to homegrown films.

In October, SGF, which is bucking that trend, agreed to invest CAN$18 million ($17.2 million) over six years in a $221.5 million slate of Dark Castle Entertainment movies to be produced by Joel Silver and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Six films from that Dark Castle Entertainment slate will be shot in Quebec, with budgets totaling about $160 million.

Last month, Lionsgate unveiled a separate two-year production deal in Alberta that will see it shoot 26 episodes of a TV series in Edmonton. As part of that deal, the province of Alberta will invest CAN$5.4 million ($5.2 million) in the TV series, and the city of Edmonton will provide another CAN$3.5 million ($3.4 million) in the project for a 15% equity stake (HR 7/6).