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Lionsgate Goes for Microbudget Movies — Hello, Rapturepalooza

The independent film studio will be making low-risk, high-reward movies with $2 million budgets and below

Lionsgate announced on Wednesday that it would be making microbudget movies, in the $2 million and below range, with the first three on deck to be comedies and thrillers.

Joe Drake, president of the studio's motion picture group said, “Microbudget films involve minimal overhead and very little risk, but a potentially high reward.  This initiative allows us to add another layer to our slate of movies that work both financially and creatively.”

That's fine, but these days microbudgets are usually way under $2 million. Ed Burns just announced that his new film "Newlyweds," screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, cost $9,000. Repeat: $9,000.

Regardless, the interest in microbudgets began with the phenomenally successful "Paranormal Activity," which cost $15,000 and grossed $108 million worldwide. Paramount promptly announced a microbudget division, but it has not produced many movies, and certainly nothing on the order of a Paranormal hit.

Regardless, Lionsgate is going in that direction. The first three flms announced by Lionsgate are "Rapturepalooza," a post-apocalyptic comedy, "Gay Dude," a coming of age comedy with a twist, and "6 Miranda Drive," a supernatural thriller.

The studio plans to make 10 micro-films per year. The studio's Sean Kisker in strategic planning launched the initiaitive; it will be overseen by Matt Kaplan.

Here's the full news release:

Santa Monica, CA, March 30, 2011– LIONSGATE® (NYSE: LGF), a leading global entertainment company, announced today the first three films to be produced under its new microbudget production initiative, which is focused exclusively on producing films with budgets of under $2 million.  They are RAPTUREPALOOZA, a post-apocalyptic comedy, GAY DUDE, a coming of age comedy with a twist, and 6 MIRANDA DRIVE, a supernatural thriller.  The announcement was made by Joe Drake, President of the Motion Picture Group at Lionsgate. 

Up to ten films will be produced each year under the microbudget umbrella, which was conceived and structured by Sean Kisker, Lionsgate’s EVP of Strategic Planning and Operations.  Lionsgate’s Matt Kaplan is spearheading implementation and overseeing the productions.

Explains Drake of the impetus for the initiative, “Microbudget films involve minimal overhead and very little risk, but a potentially high reward.  This initiative allows us to add another layer to our slate of movies that work both financially and creatively.

President of Motion Picture Production and Development Michael Paseornek shares his excitement for the initiative, adding “The productions will function as an incubator for promising new actors and filmmakers.  They will experience the best of both the independent and studio worlds – the freedom to make the movies they envision, but with the infrastructure, support and guidance of our studio behind them.  We expect this arrangement to translate not only into some great films with the potential to really break through, but into productive ongoing talent and filmmaker relationships that could pay off in lots of different ways down the road.”

Kaplan, who has been charged with identifying the most promising of these projects, said “When we look at the films that have broken out over the past few years, it’s clear that movie-goers are hungry for fresh stories told in bold ways. That means big, distinctive concepts, but it also means focusing on the humanity of the story. All the movies we greenlight will push the envelope of what we've seen on screen. The low-budget aspect definitely imposes some constraints, but also forces us to find our value in great characters, explosive situations and excellent writing. And we’re excited that some of the best in the creative community are eager to jump in with us.”

RAPTURE-PALOOZA is a comedic look at life after the fallout of a religious apocalypse. Best described as ZOMBIELAND meets THE BIG LEBOWSKI, the script was written by Chris Matheson and stars comic actor Craig Robinson (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, KNOCKED UP), with both Matheson and Robinson also executive producing.  The film is being directed by acclaimed commercial director Paul Middleditch, and will be produced by Mosaic (BAD TEACHER, THE OTHER GUYS) and Ed Solomon. RAPTUREPALOOZA will begin production this spring.

GAY DUDE is a coming of age comedy in the vein of SUPERBAD. Best friends Matty and Michael decide to lose their virginity before graduating from high school, but their quest takes an unexpected turn when Matty tells Michael he’s gay. What follows is a funny, heartfelt story about friendship, prejudice, love, and the trials and triumphs of growing up. Lionsgate plucked the script, written by Alan Yang (NBC's "Parks and Recreation"), from the Black List, the annual compilation of Hollywood’s hottest unproduced screenplays. Lawrence Mark (JULIE & JULIA, DREAMGIRLS, AS GOOD AS IT GETS, JERRY MCGUIRE) is in negotiations to produce the film with Jai Stefan.

6 MIRANDA DRIVE is a supernatural thriller in the vein of POLTERGEIST, from Greg Mclean who wrote and directed the cult classic horror film WOLF CREEK.  Based on true events, the movie is about a family that unwittingly brings a supernatural force home with them from vacation. Feeding off their own fears, the evil presence threatens to destroy them from within as it takes over their lives and home, with terrifying results. Mosaic is producing along with Mclean, and he will direct the film. Mclean is also client of Mosaic’s management division.

Lionsgate expects most of the ensuing films made in the division to fall into either the comedy or horror genres, both of which are sweet spots for the company, and historically driven more by concept and execution than budget. Lionsgate will look to feature predominantly minority casts in many of the projects as well, continuing their excellent track record of connecting with underserved urban audiences. Several of the films will also be shot in 3D. 

The initiative was inspired by and modeled on the runaway success of Lionsgate’s previous microbudget properties like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and the SAW franchise. The goal for all of these films is a similar breakout theatrical success.  Lionsgate will also backstop each picture through its home entertainment, international and digital distribution businesses.  The company will also leverage its library as a platform for some of the films, which may take the form of remakes or sequels to existing brands and properties.