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Lionsgate's Tom Ortenberg jumps to Weinstein Co.

January 26, 2009 |  5:34 pm


Lionsgate distribution and marketing vet Tom Ortenberg has left the independent studio after more than 12 years and is joining the Weinstein Co. in the newly created post of president of theatrical films. He will oversee distribution, marketing, publicity and acquisitions domestically for TWC and its genre label, Dimension Films.

Ortenberg, who begins his new job Monday and will remain based in Los Angeles, will have his work cut out for him at TWC, which has struggled to produce hits since its formation by Bob and Harvey Weinstein following the brothers' acrimonious corporate divorce from Walt Disney Co.

TWC, which previously had a distribution deal with MGM, is now releasing its own films. Ortenberg said he is looking forward to working for the demanding Weinsteins, whom he's known for the last decade since Lionsgate and the Weinsteins' former movie company, Miramax Films, collaborated on such releases as "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Sicko" and "Dogma."

Ortenberg says he's joining TWC at an "opportune time," when the company is poised to release what he believes is a promising slate of movies that includes director Quentin Tarantino's World War II drama "Inglourious Basterds," starring Brad Pitt and Mike Myers; the horror sequel "Halloween 2"; Rob Marshall's screen adaptation of the Broadway musical "Nine," featuring Daniel Day Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman and Kate Hudson; and "Youth In Revolt," a coming-of-age story starring Michael Cera (who played the boyfriend in "Juno").

TWC this weekend is expanding its Oscar-nominated film "The Reader" onto more than 1,000 screens.

Ortenberg, who was the first executive to work in Lionsgate's Santa Monica office when it opened in 1996, had a contract with the studio that ran until this spring. After Lionsgate acquired "Juno" financier Mandate Pictures in September 2007 and brought in founder Joe Drake as co-COO and president of the motion picture group, many in Hollywood felt it was only a matter of time before Ortenberg would be gone. Ortenberg says his years at Lionsgate have been "wonderful" and that "it was time for a new challenge."

Drake credited Ortenberg with being a "huge asset" in helping build the company and the parting of ways was "amicable." As Ortenberg's deal was expiring, Drake says, "ultimately, we both decided it was best to go our separate ways." Ortenberg is not expected to be replaced, with his duties to be picked up by Lionsgate's two co-presidents of marketing, Sarah Greenberg and Tim Palen, and distribution head Steve Rothenberg.

-- Claudia Eller

Photo of Tom Ortenberg by Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times