As of 2017, Lionsgate Entertainment is a household name that produces and distributes movies over all genres, from the direct to video B-movie to major blockbusters like The Hunger Games series. They also own movie channels Starz and Epix and the online Channel Comic Con HQ. Lionsgate’s history is a unique one because their entire existence is thanks to a single film, and they parlayed that single film into being a movie giant. However, their rise to power wasn’t all roses as they cost us some of our favorite companies in the process.
To understand why Artisan Entertainment’s loss was a sad one you must first understand what they meant to the horror industry in the 1990s and into the 2000s. Bad Lieutenant, Wishmaster, Joyride, The Blair Witch Project, and Stir of Echoes are just a few movies that you would have never seen without the help of Artisan. They ushered forth some of the most underrated movies of an era, horror and otherwise. So whatever happened to a production company that produced some of the best niche content ever made?
The answer is simple; they were bought by Lionsgate in 2003. Lionsgate has its own unique history which started as a few lucky breaks and turned into a business strategy. Though the company was founded in 1997, it wasn’t immediately producing box office hits. When they found small success in producing stories that other companies wouldn’t touch like Lolita and American Psycho, they created a business plan. Lionsgate became the go-to company for taboo films which landed them the film that put the company on the map and made them what they are today.
When Lionsgate acquired a little film called Saw, there was no way they could have imagined what the film would become. A low budget and huge grosses made the film incredibly successful and lined Lionsgate’s pockets with all kinds of money; money which they used to parlay themselves into one of the largest production companies and distributors in the world as well as being a smaller film company. Without Saw, we may have never seen Hunger Games, Twilight, or Divergent, which were all box office smashes.
Here is the problem; horror lovers could care less about Hunger Games, Twilight, or Divergent. Lionsgate has stayed semi-true to their roots producing a fair amount of horror movies each year, but as time passes the company continues to become more mainstream leaving behind their original business plan along with the ideals of the companies they have purchased including Summit, Trimark, and, of course, Artisan.
While we mourn the death of Artisan and poise ourselves to turn our backs on a company which we once thought of as the savior of the industry, there is some good news. Lionsgate’s move from the shadows into the mainstream has made room for new companies to come in and become what Lionsgate once was. Ghost House, Dark Castle, and the up-and-comer Blumhouse are just a few names which come to mind.
Nothing will replace what Artisan once was and common sense says that Lionsgate will not go back to their roots anytime soon. Hopefully one of these new companies will bring us back to a renaissance where great horror is delivered straight to the viewer without the need for over-inflated budgets or Hollywood influence.