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CBS Chief Leslie Moonves still angling to be a movie mogul

December 7, 2010 |  3:52 pm

CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves has long had big ambitions when it comes to building his own movie studio. And Wall Street has long been wary of the television titan's plans to branch into feature films, believing that the road through Hollywood -- while scenic for some -- contains too many potholes.

Investors have been keeping a watchful eye, and three years and three film releases after Moonves hung out his shingle, the results of his nascent CBS Films unit have not measured up to expectations. 

"It's good to have put our toe in the water, but I'm glad we didn't dive in headfirst," Moonves said Tuesday during UBS' 38th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. Moonves' assessment came after a participant asked what lessons the CEO had learned from his less-than-spectacular foray into the film business.MoonvesBaer

"It's good to go slow," Moonves said. "It's tough to be a little guy in this business."

Moonves declared CBS' inaugural film, "Extraordinary Measures" with Harrison Ford, "a big miss."  He said the company's other two releases -- the Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy "The Back-up Plan" and the Dwayne Johnson action movie "Faster" -- could still break even.

Rather than wallowing in some embarrassing financial losses, Moonves quickly pointed out that CBS Corp. rakes in $14 billion a year in revenue, so a movie miss here and there was hardly a cataclysmic event -- at least on the corporate level.

But unlike Johnson's movie character, Moonves is not ready to step on the accelerator. "We're going slowly until we figure it out," he said.

Last week, there was a high-level casting change at CBS Films.  Bruce Tobey, the No. 2 executive, whom Moonves had brought in to help guide the film unit, stepped down in what was described as a "surprise departure."  Tobey was replaced by Wolfgang Hammer, who previously worked at Lionsgate. Amy Baer continues as president of CBS Films.

Moonves said that CBS Films would continue to develop three to four movies a year. "We are going to be a player in the game," he vowed.

-- Meg James 

Photo : Leslie Moonves and Amy Baer. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times 

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