'Hunger Games' premiere is last hurrah for Lionsgate's Joe Drake
"The Hunger Games" premiere Monday night was kicked off by an introduction from a soon-to-be former Lionsgate employee who oversaw the biggest and most important movie in the company's history.
Joe Drake, Lionsgate's former motion picture group president, was the first person to walk on stage in front of thousands of Hollywood professionals and screaming fans at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. The executive, who had been involved in shaping "The Hunger Games" movie from its inception, is currently negotiating his exit from the studio.
He was recently replaced by Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachbserger, the former co-chairmen of Summit Entertainment, which Lionsgate acquired in January. The duo are bringing over many of their senior executives from Summit, resulting in a shake-up in the ranks of Lionsgate executives who have managed "The Hunger Games."
After mentioning the company's chief executive, Jon Feltheimer, and vice chairman, Michael Burns, Drake took the time to personally thank members of his team, some of whose futures at Lionsgate are soon ending or in doubt. Among them:
-- Production president Alli Shearmur, who bought the "Hunger Games" book trilogy in 2008 and oversaw production of the first movie. She has been replaced by Summit's Erik Feig and is expected to sign a producing deal with the studio.
-- Executive vice president of distribution David Spitz, who is remaining with the company but instead of running his department will take the No. 2 spot under Summit's Richard Fay.
-- Marketing president Tim Palen, who designed and oversaw the marketing campaign for "The Hunger Games." His future at Lionsgate is uncertain as the company must decide whether he or Summit's Nancy Kirkpatrick will take the top marketing job, or if the two will share power in some way.
-- Julie Fontaine, executive vice president of publicity for Lionsgate, who has managed press coverage for the film. Her future is uncertain, too, as no decision has been made on whether and how she will work alongside Summit's Eric Kops.
Absent from the list of those thanked by Drake was the Summit team, who were in attendance at the premiere.
"Hunger Games" director Gary Ross, who took the stage after Drake, also thanked Shearmur and Palen by name.
-- Ben Fritz
Photo: Jennifer Lawrence and Joe Drake at the premiere of "The Hunger Games." Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images