- Corporate body
- 1997 -
Lionsgate was founded by Frank Giustra in 1997. Giustra, the son of a nickel miner, was born in Sudbury, ON and eventually became CEO of Yorkton Securities Inc., an investment bank that specialized in funding mining ventures. A lifelong film fan, Giustra became involved with the financing for a half-dozen films before deciding to found a Canadian film company that could compete with Hollywood on its own terms. Giustra contributed $16 million of his own money to found Lion’s Gate, and secured $40 million from investors (including Yorkton, his former employer). He obtained an additional $64 million when Lion’s Gate merged with Toronto Stock Exchange listee Beringer Gold Corp. to become a publicly traded company. Beringer’s mining assets were sold off, and Lion’s Gate was soon in a position to acquire a number of existing Canadian film companies.
One of these was Cinepix Film Properties (CFP), which was founded in Montreal by John Dunning and Andre Link in 1962. Created at the height of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, CFP quickly became the centre of risqué filmmaking with such hits as Denis Heroux’s Valerie. When this and other Cinepix titles were distributed in English Canada in the early 1970s, there was a good deal of criticism levied at the Canadian Film Development Corporation (now Telefilm Canada) for spending Canadian tax dollars on what some referred to as ‘sexploitation movies’. CFP released both English and French films, and also had an American distribution arm based in New York. The company produced 10 – 12 modestly budgeted films annually, while also distributing such arthouse titles as Hype and Buffalo 66. CFP also owned 56 percent of CineGroup, a Montreal-based animated film production company. Cinepix was renamed Lion’s Gate Films after the acquisition (though its leadership remained intact), and an offshoot, Lion’s Gate International, was later formed in Los Angeles to serve as a worldwide distribution branch.
Giustra also acquired Vancouver-based North Shore Studios in 1997. North Shore (subsequently renamed Lion’s Gate Studios) was Canada’s largest film production facility, and home to a number of American television programs (including The XFiles). Over the next several years, Lion’s Gate continued to acquire various film and television companies, including International Movie Group, Inc., Artisan, Redbus and Trimark. In addition to the feature films that they produced and/or distributed, several of these companies also brought extensive inventories of home entertainment titles. As such, Lionsgate has grown to become one of the most commercially successful independent production companies in North America.
In 2000, CEO Frank Giustra stepped down and was replaced by former Sony Pictures executive John Feltheimer. In 2005, the company changed its name from “Lion’s Gate” to “Lionsgate” across all of its divisions. Under the rebranding, division titles Lions Gate Films, Lions Gate Television, Lions Gate Documentary, Lions Gate International. Lions Gate Home Entertainment, Lions Gate Family Entertainment, Lions Gate Family Home Entertainment and Lions Gate Music disappeared.
Lionsgate currently employs ca. 800 people, and has offices in Vancouver, BC and Santa Monica, CA.