You've likely seen the Lionsgate logo on a number of smaller indie art house films over the past few years, and possibly some hardcore horror movies as well. The company is a Johnny-come-lately to the film scene, wedged in between big companies with names like Disney and Warner Brothers that had been around since the 1930s.
The Hunger Games gave them a seat at the big table.
The company was founded in 1997 by a pair of entrepreneurs, Frank Giustra and Avi Federgreen, who were interested in getting into pictures. They quickly bought up a set of studios in Canada and a distributor to get their films to the theaters once they were made.
It was simple—and it worked.
Naturally, they couldn't produce giant blockbusters: they didn't have the money for that. But they could do little movies that didn't cost much to make and had a high possibility of making money. That meant two things: smart indie dramas and romances that catered to the cinematic elite…and grindhouse stuff. The grindhouse stuff is, admittedly, more fun, and it gave Lionsgate a distinctive profile amid all its competitors.
Lionsgate became known as the company you go to when you had stuff that was too hot to handle for the regular studios. It included movies like Dogma, a comedy about God and the end of the world that didn't sit well in some circles, and Gods and Monsters, about the life of the secretly gay director of Frankenstein, James Whale.
Its first big hit was American Psycho, which seemed to be both art house film and grindhouse horror movie rolled into one. (It also gave Christian Bale a chance to practice his crazy eye before he became Batman.) It was a monster, taking in almost $35 million on a $7 million budget, and it enabled the company to look for bigger and bigger projects to do.
And then The Hunger Games came along.
Suzanne Collins' books were huge, and while the film needed some money behind it, it didn't need as much as, say, the Marvel Cinematic Universe would. Lionsgate produced The Hunger Games for a comparatively cheap $78 million, only to pull in almost $700 million worldwide with it. Those are MCU-level numbers on half the budget, and suddenly this little indie production company looked a whole lot bigger (source).
They haven't let it go to their heads, however, and have stuck to the program by and large: a mix of indie films, low-budget horror movies and a couple of prestige franchises like The Hunger Games (which claims four of the company's five highest grossing movies) and the Divergent series (also based on a series of young adult novels).
We can only guess where they plan to go from here, but it's safe to say that they owe a whole lot to Katniss Everdeen.