Lions Gate, Summit discuss merger in early talks

November 29, 2011 - 8:25 AM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two Hollywood studios that are vying for a similar teen audience are talking about merging, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and Summit Entertainment LLC, both based in Santa Monica, restarted discussions following the success of Summit's fourth "Twilight" movie, the person, who was not authorized to speak about it publicly, said Monday. The two have talked about merging in the past.

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" has grossed nearly half a billion dollars worldwide since its release Nov. 18.

The success of the latest in the saga has fueled new interest in privately held Summit, which is set to release Part 2 of the finale next November.

Lions Gate, a publicly traded company, is banking on its own hit with "The Hunger Games," due out in March. It's based on the young adult novels by Suzanne Collins.

Bloomberg News earlier reported on the talks.

A merged entity would benefit from the two studios' combined film libraries. Those include Lions Gate hits like "The Expendables" and the "Saw" horror series, and Summit's "Twilight" series and movies such as "Red." Lions Gate would also get the benefit of Summit's international film-distribution arm.

Summit spokeswoman Melissa Zukerman and Lions Gate spokesman Peter Wilkes declined to comment.

The talks are in the early stages and no deal is assured, the person said.

Summit, once an international sales agent for other production companies, was reborn as a full-fledged studio in 2007 when former Paramount Pictures executive Rob Friedman joined with Summit President Patrick Wachsberger to raise $1 billion in financing led by Merrill Lynch. The studio refinanced $750 million in debt earlier this year.

Lions Gate recently emerged from a long shareholder battle with activist investor Carl Icahn, who agreed earlier this year to sell most of his shares and focus his attention elsewhere.