Lionsgate Entertainment Benefits from Oscar Buzz (LGF)

| About: Lions Gate (LGF)

I've noticed a lot of attention being drawn to Lionsgate Entertainment (NYSE:LGF) lately. Not only do they have a hit movie on their hands, but Oscar buzz and upcoming plans for their films this year are garnering a lot of press.

There was a nice article on LGF at TheStreet.com -- calling them the "little studio that could." And Business Week published an article touting the potential for LGF should Crash perform well at the Academy Awards.

It makes sense that everyone wants to write about film studios when the Oscars roll around, and Lionsgate is a great story -- one that's very well illustrated by the Crash story. LGF bought Crash at the Toronto Film Festival when no one else was interested, paying a few million ... and it turned into a huge critical darling and a solid hit with over $60 million at the box office and in DVD even before Oscar night.

That's the Lionsgate template -- find films that don't fit neat Hollywood niches, that don't have stars, or that make big studios uncomfortable, make and/or market them on the cheap, and reap the rewards. When you don't spend hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing and star trailers, it's a lot easier to make a film break even ... and some of them, like Crash, will make huge profits. Others like Lord of War and In the Mix will flop, but even on those high profile disappointments Lionsgate doesn't lose nearly as much as the big studios do on their flops.

And while this year is starting off with a bang with Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion bursting out of the box office gate to win last weekend, it looks like it will end with a bloodletting as Lionsgate has announced that their biggest horror franchise, Saw, will see its third installment on Halloween.

In between, LGF continues to innovate and churn out profitable films and tv series at minimal cost, even as their huge film library continues to pay the bills -- and that library may become even more valuable if the transition to Blu-Ray or to widespread video on demand spurs interest in their titles like Terminator 2 and Dirty Dancing.

I'm eager to see how their first-ever partnership with Starbucks will play out, Starbucks will be promoting Akeelah and the Bee in their stores this Spring, and that might be just what this kind of feel-good word-of-mouth movie might need to get some real attention.

Lionsgate has had a big run since they scared investors back in December, and they've now recovered to close to my purchase price. In my opinion it doesn't matter much whether or not they win any Oscars for Crash this weekend, I think they've got a great business model and should prosper, with hiccups, for years to come.


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