Frank Guistra founded Lionsgate in 1997, and in the 25 years since, the studio has produced and distributed major blockbusters including the Twilight, Hunger Games and John Wick franchises. Lionsgate is the parent company of Summit Entertainment and owns a 50 percent stake in Pantelion, which specializes in films for Latine audiences, and whose films are frequently distributed by Lionsgate.
Lionsgate’s first inclusive film was The Pillow Book (1997), in which Ewan McGregor plays a bisexual man. The studio’s other LGBTQ-inclusive films include Gods and Monsters (1998), But I’m a Cheerleader! and Urbania (2000), Lost and Delirious and All Over the Guy (2001), Happy Endings (2005), Precious (2009), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), American Ultra and Freeheld (2015), Un Padre No Tan Padre (2017), and Bombshell (2019).
Widest theatrical release: 2,132 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Fail
Based on the book of the same name, dystopian adventure film Chaos Walking follows a young man in a society where seemingly every woman has died due to mysterious circumstances in an alien war. In this world, the protagonist Todd is raised by two men, Ben and Cillian, after the death of his mother. Though there has been external confirmation from author Patrick Ness that Ben and Cillian are in a romantic relationship, this is not clearly shown on screen. The two men share a bed, but no physical intimacy – their sharing a bed largely seems more due to their small house than out of a desire to be together. When Cillian dies early in the film, Ben is visibly upset, though there is no real indication if he is upset due to a lover dying or a friend and co-parent dying.
Though the intent may have been there to make Ben and Cillian a couple, intent is not enough, and more on-screen confirmation is needed. In a world with supposedly no women, two men raising a son together is not enough for them to be considered to be explicitly queer as an orientation rather than together as a circumstance of their society. Adding physical affection or a declaration of love between the two of them would have been a small detail that would have gone a long way.
Lionsgate was one of the companies that moved select productions out of North Carolina in 2016 in response to the discriminatory HB2 bill which targeted transgender people. Lionsgate received a 100 on the 2022 Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index with points awarded for workforce protection policies including sexual orientation and gender identity, inclusive benefits for same-sex partners and for transgender people, and the existence of an LGBTQ focused employee resource group. Lionsgate also recently expanded the gender identity section in their on-set inclusivity trainings. The company has also introduced a supplier diversity program for vendors which requires qualifying suppliers to be majority owned, operated, and controlled by people from five underrepresented communities including LGBTQ business heads. No anti-LGBTQ political donations were found by Lionsgate or its parent company in 2021.
Lionsgate, like many other studios, is teaming up with streamers more frequently to release new films. LGBTQ-inclusive 2022 releases include My Fake Boyfriend, starring Keiynan Lonsdale as a man who invents a fake boyfriend for social media but ends up falling for a real man in his life, which was released by Amazon Prime in 2022. Gaming film 1Up, starring Ruby Rose and Hari Nef, also went straight to streaming this summer.
In 2021, Lionsgate announced an adaptation of novel The Guncle, which follows a gay man living in Palm Springs who has to take care of his niece and nephew after a tragic accident. Lionsgate has plans for another John Wick sequel, which has the potential to include the character of The Adjudicator, played by non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon, and confirm their gender identity explicitly in the film. There is also an adaption of video game series Borderlands in the works, which has the opportunity to include LGBTQ characters from the original games.
In 2019, it was announced that out filmmaker Joey Soloway would direct a biopic of famed lesbian astronaut Sally Ride. It was also announced that comic book Memetic from out writer James Tynion IV would be made into a feature film. The comic features a gay disabled protagonist in the horror genre, a severely underrepresented demographic. Though no news has broken about any of these projects recently, we hope to see them all grace theater screens within the next few years.
Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff founded Roadside Attractions in 2003. Lionsgate bought a portion of the studio in 2007, and the company continues to release independent films. Memorable LGBTQ-inclusive films the studio previously released include I Love You Phillip Morris (2010), Dear White People (2014), The Skeleton Twins (2014), Hello, My Name is Doris (2016), Whitney (2018), and Judy (2019).
Widest Theatrical Release: 1,094 theaters
Joe Bell tells the true story of Joe, a man who walked across the country and talked to schools about anti-LGBTQ bullying after his son Jadin died by suicide. Jadin is a gay teen and audiences see his life through flashbacks of him coming out, his experiences with being bullied, and his eventual death. Jadin also appears as a phantom on Joe’s journey. At the film’s conclusion, Joe is killed when a car accidentally hits him during his cross-country walk. Though Jadin’s lived experience is the impetus for the whole film, the story is very much centered on Joe’s journey to develop acceptance as a straight man rather than on Jadin’s story.