Lionsgate May Buy Summit, Bloody Up ‘Twilight’


News coming down the wire last night about a potential buy-out of Summit Entertainment by Lionsgate has sent shockwaves through the online film community this morning. Namely, everyone seems to want to speculate about what the blood-thirsty Execs. over at Lionsgate might do with Summit’s one and only successful property, Twilight. But first lets clear up some of the facts on the potential Lionsgate buy-out/merger with Summit, as reported by Sharon Waxman over at The Wrap. The deal has allegedly been in the works for some time now, as both studios have seen stock values drop and mid-level films flop at the box office in this unpredictable economic climate. For Summit, 2008’s only success was the frenzied teen-vamp flick Twilight ($186 million domestic gross). They found no success in the rest of their catalog, including the raunchy comedy Sex Drive ($8.4m domestic) and the fantasy romantic comedy Penelope ($10m domestic).

Lionsgate has had its share of problems as well, finding slim box office reciepts in two comic book properties (Punisher: War Zone and The Spirit) as well as mediocre takes on some of their other high-profile films such as Oliver Stone’s W. and the Friedberg/Seltzer spoof Disaster Movie (which was the first of its kind to gross below $20m). And after the flopping of Lionsgate’s latest comedy New in Town, which hit theaters this past weekend with a $6.7m opening, it is undoubtedly a studio in need of some change.

That change has already begun with the exit of president of theatrical Tom Ortenberg last week, and as Waxman reports, could continue with the Summit merger. The benefit to both studios is that in this rocky economic climate, the best thing for two smaller studios to do would be to combine and streamline resources in order to remain in competition with the big studios. As well, buying Summit would give Lionsgate access to a guaranteed hit franchise in Twilight, something they have grown accustomed to with both the Saw franchise and the films of Tyler Perry. And as the grosses of the Saw franchise continue to slide with each new sequel, it might be time to lock down a new sure thing if Lionsgate hopes to remain above water.

This brings us to another question about Lionsgate and Twilight that was raised today by Jeff Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere. Would the traditionally edgy, gore-hungry minds over at Lionsgate be looking to turn New Moon and subsequent sequels into tween torture porn? From where I sit, it is unlikely that Lionsgate would want to push the violence and gore into any extreme territory. It is true that the future of the Twilight series does bring a much darker tone and some increased violence, but I don’t see the logic in Lionsgate taking the reigns and running the franchise away from its primarily female, largely young fanbase. If there is one thing Lionsgate has always been good for — with the exception of their live-action comic properties — it has been that they know how to play to a particular demographic segment. Take for example all of Tyler Perry’s movies, the Saw franchise and even the spoof movies. They all play predictably well with certain demos, therefore Lionsgate has always been quick to adopt a formula and stick with it. Creative criticism aside, they know how to milk a franchise. I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t do the same with Twilight.

At this point we are taking this as a complete rumor, as both sides — including our half-dozen inside sources — are staying relatively quiet. What we know is that the two studios have been quite close for some time now, working together on international distributions, consulting back and forth, etc. We also know that the current economic climate makes it a logical pairing. As always, our appendages are to the grindstone on this one and we’ll let you know the moment we find out more.

Do you think that Lionsgate and Summit merging would be a good idea? Also, what effect do you think it would have on the Twilight franchise, if any?

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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