Film and TV producer and distributor Lionsgate Entertainment is on a roll thanks to successful movie properties such as Hunger Games and Friends with Kids, alongside a slate of TV series including Weeds, Emmy Award-winning Mad Men (photo) and Netflix’ latest hit, Orange is the New Black. Peter Iacono, the company’s managing director for international TV, talked to the MIPBlog about the the current state of distribution… and what it’s like seeing Mad Men in a movie theatre!
MIPBlog: What do you make of the state of the current market for movies on TV?
Peter Iacono: Over the past few years we’ve seen so many new outlets appearing, but at the same time there are fewer primetime slots for films. But as we say round here, “as a door closes, a window opens”… and there are a lot of opportunities for films like VOD platforms. But also cable and DTT operators are looking for more film these days, and we still do very robust business with free-to-air broadcasters. Of course, it’s easier to place the bigger films, but we also manage to find homes for smaller productions too. The truth is that the market is more diverse, and we as a distributor have to be more creative, especially in terms of the kinds of deals we make. In the past, it was five runs over five years, or three runs over three years, but the variety of options now makes being flexible essential. For example, we currently have a deal with a free VOD platform in China. It’s all about understanding and adapting, because there is so much opportunity out there. Sometimes I feel like I ought to ask a 10 year-old what we should do! [laughs]
Lionsgate is a company that makes films and TV series. Is it a coincidence that the look of Mad Men is so ‘filmic’?
> That’s mainly down to the ambition behind the production, and an exemplary working enviroment. By that I mean that the Mad Men set is known around Hollywood as the best-run set in town. And it’s the best to work on, because everyone is so focused, dedicated and efficient, consequently we get a lot of bang for our bucks. One of the things I really love is that every year we hire the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard, and we project the first episode on the huge screen there. At that point you can clearly see the effort, skill and craft that have gone into the series.
What’s next in the production pipeline?
> Netflix immediately ordered a second series of Orange is the New Black, so we’re delighted about that, even though we have no audience numbers, so we don’t really know how to measure its popularity. But it has a similar size budget to Mad Men, and Netflix asked for another 13 episodes so they must be happy with how it performed. We’re also currently producing an epic-mini series of 4×60′ called Houdini, about the escape artist Harry Houdini. It’s a massive production for A+E Networks/History Channel, starring Adrien Brody as Houdini, and directed by Oscar-nominated Uli Edel (Body of Evidence, Rasputin). On a cost-per-hour basis it’s one of the biggest and most ambitious series we’ve ever been involved in. Adrien is amazing, he’s doing his own stunts and he can get out of a water tank after being chained up entirely unaided. Apparently it’s all about being able to disclocate your shoulders, but all I know is that while I was watching him I was very nervous indeed. Uli is mostly known for his feature film work, and between the budget, the talent, the director and the overall quality of the production, I think it’s fair to say that Houdini is a classic example of the joining together of the worlds of film and TV. We’ll be coming to MIPCOM with a teaser of the show, which is due for broadcast in 2014, and of course we’re very keen to see what sorts of reactions it’ll get from the broadcast industry.
Gary Smith is senior reporter for the MIPCOM News. This is the latest in a series of posts exploring the ever-growing bridges between TV and cinema. Film will be a key focal point of MIPCOM 2013: details of all “TV, Film’s New Eldorado” sessions are here.