‘School of Magical Animals 2,’ ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ Boost Leonine Studios’ Distribution Business
Since its establishment in 2019, Leonine Studios has become one of Germany’s leading film distributors.
Forged by the merger of two companies, Concorde Film and Universum Film, the distribution powerhouse releases between20 and 25 films a year, including around five in-house productions or co-productions, says Bernhard zu Castell, Leonine Studios’ chief distribution officer.
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“Our aim is to offer a slate of event movies that is an optimal blend of genres for all target groups and all our partners in the highest possible quality,” adds zu Castell, who previously headed Universum Film. “This strategy was key in establishing ourselves as a reliable distributor and licensor for all content platforms.”
The company last year enjoyed its biggest hit yet with “School of Magical Animals 2,” a fast-growing franchise that Leonine also co-produces. The film sold more than 2.8 million admissions (3 million counting Austria), making it 2022’s most successful German release and the fifth highest-grossing movie of the year by admissions. It also became the most successful German family film of the last 10 years in Germany and Austria, zu Castell points out.
The film’s success helped make Leonine the leading domestic distributor after Disney, Universal, Warner, Paramount and Sony.
The first instalment in the “School of Magical Animals” franchise likewise became the most successful film of 2021 (with nearly 1.8 million admissions). Describing it as “broad family entertainment that was embraced by the German-speaking audience,” zu Castell says it was the first film that really brought audiences back to theaters following the pandemic.
“School of Magical Animals” was released in the U.S. in March via Blue Fox Entertainment. Part 3 is currently in production and set for release on Oct. 3, 2024, with the fourth instalment scheduled to hit theaters on Oct. 2 the following year.
The first “School of Magical Animals” remains Leonine’s second most successful film since the company’s establishment. Its top 5 biggest movies also include “John Wick: Chapter 4” (1.5 million admissions), “Knives Out” (1.2 million admissions) and “John Wick: Chapter 3,” with nearly 1.2 million admissions.
Leonine is enjoying another stellar year thanks in large part to the latest “John Wick” pic. It also saw a major box office bump with its re-release of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” after it swept this year’s Oscars. The film sold 22,000 admissions over March 18-19 for its best weekend box office since its April 2022 release, bringing its total admissions in Germany to approximately 340,000.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” had a major impact, zu Castell notes. “The film drew a completely new audience to theaters that craves unconventional storytelling.”
Among this year’s diverse lineup are such forthcoming titles as “Beau Is Afraid,” which opens on May 11; French box office hit “Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom,” which hits local theaters on May 18; in-house co-production “Lassie – A New Adventure” (July 27); “The Expendables 4” (Sept. 21) and, opening Sept. 28, family dramedy “Weekend Rebels.”
An in-house production from subsidiary Wiedemann & Berg Film co-produced with Leonine Studios and directed by Marc Rothemund, “Weekend Rebels” follows a father (Florian David Fitz) who promises to help his young autistic son find a favorite soccer team.
Leonine’s other big titles this year include “The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” which opens Nov. 16, and, hitting theaters on Dec. 21, the highly anticipated pop band biopic “Girl You Know It’s True.”
Produced by Leonine Studios and Wiedemann & Berg Film and written and directed by Simon Verhoeven, “Girl You Know It’s True” is the story of Milli Vanilli, the infamous German-French R&B duo of Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan formed by German record producer Frank Farian in the 1980s.
Leonine is seeing a revival of its live Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, which suffered during the COVID crisis. Audiences have slowly returned, however. The last live broadcast of “Der Rosenkavalier” last month reached No. 4 in the box office charts.
While Leonine got off to a tough start with the advent of the pandemic, the company saw a home entertainment business boom during the period and the division remains strong.
“We are actively distributing product in EST and TVOD on all available platforms, but also physical products are still doing well in Germany,” zu Castell says. “We license SVOD-rights to our partners or exploit these rights on our own SVOD-channels, Home of Horror, Arthouse CNMA, Filmtastic, Filmlegenden and Cinema of Hearts.”
In 2022 Leonine had 226 digital home entertainment releases and 322 physical home entertainment releases. The company also manages home entertainment distribution as an aggregator for a variety of partners and distributors in Germany that profit from its market leading position, zu Castell adds.
In addition, Leonine has multi-year license deals with Sky Deutschland and Amazon Prime Video.
Leonine’s international sales business, meanwhile, is currently focused mainly on TV productions.
The company is building up its slate with a blend of in-house productions, such as Odeon Fiction’s spy series “Bonn” and six-part thriller “The Seed” as well as shows from other territories, among them AGC’s Australian drama “Troppo” and Blue Ice Pictures’ Canadian title “SurrealEstate.”
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