Lionsgate Lays Out Its Franchise Plans — and Lots of Action — at CinemaCon

CinemaCon 2024: Keanu Reeves as a goofy angel, Ana de Armas in “Ballerina” and the first look at “Michael” are among the big highlights

Borderlands
Lionsgate

Lionsgate has left its mark on the box office with action-packed series like “John Wick” and “The Hunger Games,” and during its CinemaCon 2024 presentation on Wednesday, the studio touted its efforts to expand its IP stable.

“Each [successful sequel] prompted the audience to reach out and ask us for more, and they’re being very specific,” Lionsgate’s motion picture group chair Adam Fogelson said in Las Vegas. “They want to know about what happens to specific characters. They want to know what happens in specific places. They want to learn more about the rules and the worlds in which they’re set.”

“So we will not be creating new installments just because we want to or just because it’s good business, but because the audience demanded it,” he added.

While they were not far along enough in production to have footage to show during the presentation, several projects were touted by Fogelson — including a newly announced reimagining of “The Blair Witch Project” and a film based on the board game “Monopoly” that will be produced by Margot Robbie. A remake of “Highlander” and an adaptation of “Naruto” are also in pre-production from the studio.

But Lionsgate did surprise exhibitors with the first-ever look at the teasers for the two biggest films on its 2025 slate: the “John Wick” spin-off “Ballerina” and Antoine Fuqua’s “Michael” biopic. Ana de Armas will play a ballerina who follows John Wick into the life of a vengeful assassin, while the “Michael” teaser promised a performance from Jaafar Jackson that will span his legendary pop star uncle’s turbulent life.

Beyond franchises, Lionsgate made action into a major portion of its presentation, kicking things off with an appearance by Henry Cavill to show off a pair of films he made with director Guy Ritchie: the WWII-based shoot-em-up “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” coming out next week, and the thriller “In the Grey” set for January 2025.

The studio also showed off its big plan to join the rising trend of video game movies with Eli Roth’s adaptation of “Borderlands,” its grisly adaptation of “The Crow” starring Bill Skarsgård, and the bloody assassin thriller “The Killer’s Game” starring Dave Bautista.

Lionsgate also showcased a pair of horror titles: a reimagining of the 2008 home invasion tale “The Strangers,” and “Never Let Go,” an original film starring Halle Berry as a mother fighting to protect her two children in a cabin in the woods where they must remain tethered to their house by a rope in order to survive against a horde of deadly creatures.

But it wasn’t all gore and gloom. Lionsgate also touted its ongoing partnership with Kingdom Story Company with its upcoming adaptation of the book, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” a family comedy directed by “The Chosen” creator Dallas Jenkins.

Aziz Ansari’s upcoming comedy “Good Fortune” was also shown, with the comedian playing a down-on-his-luck guy who gets help from a “budget guardian angel” named Gabriel, played by Keanu Reeves. Gabriel switches the poor sap’s life with that of a billionaire, played by Seth Rogen, in the hopes of teaching him that wealth doesn’t solve his problems. Turns out, it does.

Ansari stole the show in Vegas, roasting Fogelson and promising the crowd that he was not “Henry Cavill in brownface.” The two also showed a viral picture from production of Reeves on crutches, with Fogelson joking to Ansari that “Keanu Reeves survived four ‘John Wick’ movies, but somehow you broke him.”

Lionsgate has used a mix of smaller production budgets and presales to foreign distributors to keep the box office break-even point on their films low. While the studio had some misfires in 2023 — “Expandables 4” grossed only $38 million worldwide — it also saw “John Wick: Chapter 4” become the highest grossing film in that series with $441 million worldwide, while “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” and “Saw X” revitalized their respective franchises, with Lionsgate announcing plans for future installments, including “Saw XI” in 2025.

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