The long-in-the-works move will see the new unit selectively target and acquire rights to commercial titles across multiple platforms in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
Gardner will serve as co-president with Lightning co-president Rich Goldberg. Lightning Entertainment has also signed a deal with Anchor Bay Entertainment whereby the latter will distribute up to 12 titles a year from Lightning.
Gardner previously served as president of Union Station Media and arrives with new vice president of operations Barbara Javitz, also from Union Station Media.
The company has also announced the new umbrella company Lightning Entertainment Group that will encompass Lightning Media, Lightning Entertainment - run by Richard Guardian - and Lightning Home Entertainment.
The first films in the Lightning Media slate include the mixed martial arts feature The Scorpion and the 2007 theatrically released comedy Tortilla Heaven starring George Lopez.
Lightning Entertainment co-founder Marc Goldber and Gardner will attend Cannes along with Lightning vice president of acquisitions and marketing Joe Dickstein and Guardian.
'Creating Lightning Media was the logical next step in expanding the Lightning brand and maximising our collective assets and resources,' Goldberg said. 'The addition of Lightning Media provides leverage in securing broader distribution rights for feature films and strategically makes a great deal of sense as the company looks to capitalise on developing digital platforms.'