‘Antebellum’: Lionsgate Film Boss Joe Drake On PVOD Outlook: “Economics Look Strong,” But Theaters Still Key

Dade Hayes
·4-min read

Lionsgate film chief Joe Drake said the decision to skip theaters and make horror movie Antebellum a premium video-on-demand release does not mean theaters are fading from the scene.

“I would love to see every one of our movies released theatrically,” the motion picture group chairman said during Lionsgate’s quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts. Antebellum, which stars Janelle Monae and comes from the producers of Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us, has a timely storyline but dwindling options given theater closures during COVID-19. It had already been pushed back four months and then pulled from the release calendar.

More from Deadline

Priced at $19.99, Drake said the hope is that the film can play through the holidays and still generate the word of mouth and reach that horror hits can.

“With the extraordinary demand for content and the short supply,” Drake said, “the economics look really strong.”

Many studios have decided to pull the trigger on PVOD as they reckon with the pandemic. One benefit is that they keep a much higher share of revenue even if it is lower than regular box office would be thanks to not having a 50-50 split with theaters. Disney on Tuesday shifted Mulan to a $29.99 PVOD berth on Disney+ and Universal just reached a precedent-setting deal with AMC allowing films to shift from theaters to other windows after just 17 days. That agreement, which smashed the windows system honored for decades in the film business, followed Universal’s non-theatrical spring bow for Trolls World Tour.

Drake echoed windows comments from studio executives in recent days, saying that there will ideally be a greater degree of collaboration between theaters and distributors coming out of the pandemic. Historically, the parties have been like the Hatfields and the McCoys, only more at odds. It’s instructive to realize that it was less than a year ago that Netflix and major exhibitors failed to reach terms on a compromised window for The Irishman because theaters would not budge on window terms.

“We believe very much in the theatrical business. As that opens back up, we’ll be ready to exploit it aggressively,” Drake said. “And yet, what you have seen in this moment is new opportunities be created. I look at the environment and, while it’s a little tough because theaters aren’t open, we’ve got more optionality and interesting ways to exploit our content for the consumer and so I think that going forward we’ll be looking at all of those things.”

Asked by an analyst if talent will impose a default to theaters as opposed to more of a push toward PVOD, Drake said, “We feel like talent – we want it in theaters too. We all would like that to happen.”

Ultimately, with so much uncertainty about theaters and audience demand, stakeholders in movies “end up having a lot more conversations than you maybe had to before,” Drake said. “But at the end of the day, creators want their stories to be seen and they want to have impact. So we’re all kind of in it together, dealing with the moment.”

As to the AMC-Universal deal, Drake said the company is still assessing it and having its own dialogue with exhibitors. But he painted a bright picture of the deal’s effect. “It treats all the parties as partners in the theatrical and PVOD space,” he said. “It’s trying to create a partnership model, where everybody wins. We like that.”

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.