Lionsgate entertainment company has announced that it is teaming with global financier and philanthropist Frank Giustra, who founded Lionsgate and served as its Chairman for six years, and his Vancouver-based Thunderbird Films television production, distribution and financing company in a television partnership to produce programming for broadcast and cable networks as part of the ongoing diversification of Lionsgate’s television business.
The new venture, called Sea To Sky Entertainment, will generate a broad range of scripted programming for mainstream commercial audiences designed to have resonance with U.S. and Canadian viewers alike. Lionsgate and Thunderbird, the production company behind cult fan hit Endgame, will jointly manage Sea To Sky, which is designed to share production and distribution costs for any series picked up by the television networks, allowing the two parties to cofund network television programming while mitigating risk.
Sea To Sky already has several projects in the pipeline and will encompass the development and production deal with prolific Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated reality producer and documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler (THE WAR ROOM, AMERICAN HIGH, BLACK WHITE) that Lionsgate and Cutler announced two weeks ago. Lionsgate is already teaming with Cutler and Academy Award-winning writer Callie Khouri on NASHVILLE, a steamy ABC drama about love, country music, family, politics and sex set in Nashville.
Sea To Sky also has optioned the rights to the upcoming book “An Uncommon Youth,” a riveting first person account of the events and family dysfunction surrounding the Getty kidnapping in Italy in the 1970’s. Veteran producer Anne Thomopoulos will shepherd the project as a limited series for international coproduction.
In addition, the new venture will develop a one-hour drama from American master Dennis Lehane, the author of MYSTIC RIVER, which was made into an Academy Award winning-movie, and GONE BABY GONE, adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film.
“We are delighted to be reunited with our old friend and founder Frank Giustra,” said Lionsgate Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer. “Frank has had a tremendous impact in the financial community worldwide as well as in the realm of global philanthropy, and we believe that he can have a significant influence in helping the ongoing diversification of our television business as well. Teaming with Frank and Thunderbird will help us explore new strategies for producing programming for the broadcast networks cost-effectively as well as expanding our TV business into other exciting new areas.”
“I’m thrilled to return to my Lionsgate roots and partner with Jon Feltheimer, Kevin Beggs and the rest of the Lionsgate team,” said Giustra. “They have built Lionsgate’s television business almost from scratch to a nearly $400 million-a-year diversified operation since I founded Lionsgate, and I’m pleased to participate in the continued growth of the Company’s television business. I have sought to make a difference with all the ventures I have launched, and I hope Sea To Sky will be no exception as Lionsgate and Thunderbird work together to create and deliver exciting television programming to audiences hungry for original content and fresh ideas.”
“I’m delighted to reteam with Frank, who was Chairman of Lionsgate when I first joined the Company nearly 15 years ago,” said Lionsgate Television Group President Kevin Beggs. “He has always been a visionary in recognizing the potential of new markets, new companies and new ideas. The quality of the talent relationships his new company has already formed for its first wave of projects is testament to the level of programming we believe they can bring to our buyers and the role they can play in the ongoing diversification of our television business.”
Thunderbird finances, produces and distributes all genres of television programming for the world market. Mr. Giustra recently announced a significant investment in Thunderbird to become one of its major shareholders and he plans to diversify and expand the company’s television business activities. The new television programming partnership with Lionsgate is one of the first initiatives announced.
Thunderbird’s catalog is comprised of over 400 hours of Canadian and U.S. television content, and its programming airs on broadcast, cable, online and wireless networks around the globe.