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Lionsgate acquires distribution rights for ‘The SMOSH Movie’

YouTube stars Anthony Padilla, left, and Ian Andrew Hecox arrive at the MTV Video Music Awards last month in Inglewood.
YouTube stars Anthony Padilla, left, and Ian Andrew Hecox arrive at the MTV Video Music Awards last month in Inglewood.
(Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)

Nearly 10 years after Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox started their YouTube channel SMOSH, the comedic duo will head to the big screen.

Lionsgate, the studio behind “The Hunger Games” franchise, announced on Thursday that it will distribute the feature-length film, which is co-produced by AwesomenessTV and DEFY Media.

Directed by Alex Winter, the film follows Padilla and Hecox as they leap through a portal onto YouTube. It also features other YouTube stars such as Jenna Marbles, Grace Helbig, Harley Morenstein and Shane Dawson.

“It’s really exciting ... and I think that Lionsgate acquiring the movie shows just how far the digital landscape has come,” AwesomenessTV President Brian Robbins told the Los Angeles Times.

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With a mix of parody videos and humorous series, SMOSH has developed a large fan base, especially among 13-to-17-year-olds. SMOSH currently has more than 30 million combined YouTube subscribers, 19 million social followers and 12 million unique monthly visitors.

A Variety survey published last month found that the top five celebrities among U.S. teens were not Hollywood stars but YouTube celebrities and SMOSH topped the list with a score of 93.

SMOSH was among the batch of nominated online talent at the fourth annual Streamy Awards, which celebrate online media.

“Digital stars are really the mainstream stars of tomorrow,” Robbins said. “I think there’s a huge underserved audience out there when it comes to theatrical releases. ... I think a movie like ‘The SMOSH Movie’ will be able to fill that void.”

Keith Richman, president of DEFY Media, echoed similar enthusiasm for SMOSH, one of the company’s biggest YouTube properties.

“A lot of people are beginning to recognize the value that these digital brands have,” Richman told The Times. “The movie was the opportunity to leverage the strength of the brand. We never thought of SMOSH as just a digital video brand. ... We think of it as a big brand. [The movie] is a logical extension for us.”

For Lionsgate, which is an investor in DEFY media, the film is an opportunity to further expand its digital presence.

The Santa Monica-based studio announced a deal in July with online video service Hulu Plus to exclusively stream WGN America’s new drama “Manhattan” every Monday, following the Sunday night airing.

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The studio also partnered with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to launch a subscription streaming service for mainland China.

“‘The SMOSH Movie’ brings to life a YouTube comedy franchise beloved by fans around the world and reflects our commitment to extend storytelling in exciting new directions that reach today’s digital audience,” Jason Constantine, Lionsgate president of acquisitions and co-productions, said in a statement.

Shares of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. were at $33.45, down 11 cents, on Thursday.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h on Twitter.

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