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Category: Summit Entertainment

Lions Gate cuts 80 jobs following Summit acquisition

Twilight Summit Entertainment Lions Gate

Santa Monica-based Lions Gate Entertainment is laying off about 80 people in the wake of its acquisition of Summit Entertainment, said a person familiar with the matter.

In a move to bolster its film and TV library and better compete with larger studios, Lions Gate agreed in January to acquire Santa Monica-based Summit Entertainment, producer of the hit young adult  "Twilight" franchise, for $412.5 million in cash and stock.

Layoffs at both companies were anticipated as they merged their motion picture and home entertainment operations. Most of the layoffs Friday were in those departments.

The cuts total about 12% of a combined workforce of 675 people, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the layoffs. Some jobs will also be eliminated through attrition, reducing the total workforce to about 575.

Prior to the acquisition, Lions Gate had about 500 employees and Summit had 175, and it was not clear how many layoffs came from each. 

Among the casualties was Summit Entertainment's longtime head of home entertainment, Steve Nickerson, who was laid off last month as part of a shift in the executive ranks of the combined companies motion picture group, which is headed by Summit's former chairman, Rob Friedman, and Patrick Wachsberger. 

The number of layoffs was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

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-- Richard Verrier and Ben Fritz

Photo: Taylor Lautner, left, Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson in Summit Entertainment's "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse." Credit: Kimberley French / Summit Entertainment

Summit layoffs as Lions Gate merger continues

Summit Entertainment's longtime head of home entertainment, Steve Nickerson, has been laid off as the merger of the independent studio with Lions Gate Entertainment's motion picture group goes forward. Summit is the studio behind the "Twilight" movies.Summit Entertainment's longtime head of home entertainment, Steve Nickerson, has been laid off as the merger of the independent studio with Lions Gate Entertainment's motion picture group claims casualties on both sides.

Nickerson's departure means that Lions Gate President Steve Beeks will run the home entertainment business for the combined companies.

Lions Gate acquired Summit in late January. Since then, Summit chiefs Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger have been named co-chairmen of Lions Gate's motion picture group, replacing former chairman Joe Drake. In addition, Summit's president of production, Erik Feig, has taken the same title at Lions Gate, replacing Alli Shearmur.

Beeks is the first senior Lions Gate executive chosen over a Summit executive as the company continues to put together its management team post-acquisition. Still to be determined is who will run the combined entity's marketing and theatrical distribution units.

Nickerson has led Summit's home entertainment unit since 2007, after working for seven years at Warner Bros. Bobby Gerber, Nickerson's top deputy, and Alex Fragen, who headed sales of Summit's movies to domestic television networks, also lost their jobs, according to a person familiar with the matter not authorized to speak about it publicly. The trio's departure was first reported by Variety.

Once Lions Gate finalizes the executive team in its motion picture department, some layoffs of lower-level staffers are expected in some divisions, including home entertainment and marketing.

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Lions Gate acquires Summit Entertainment for $412.5 million

Lionsgate's Shearmur expected to leave as Summit's Feig steps in

Summit's Friedman, Wachsberger join Lions Gate; Drake plans exit

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Taylor Lautner, Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson in Summit Entertainment's "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse." Credit: Kimberley French / Summit Entertainment

Box Office: Navy SEALs take out Perry, Aniston, Seyfried

Act of Valor" dominated the weekend box office, opening to a solid $24.7 million, according to an estimate from distributor Relativity MediaThis post has been updated. See the note below for details.

As Hollywood's A-listers prepare for the Academy Awards on Sunday, it was the Navy SEAL stars of the movie "Act of Valor" who dominated the box office.

The intense action movie opened to a solid $24.7 million, according to an estimate from distributor Relativity Media, proving by far the most popular choice for audiences.

"Good Deeds," the latest movie from writer/director Tyler Perry, opened to $16 million. It's the second-smallest opening ever for the prolific filmmaker and actor, ahead of only 2007's "Daddy's Little Girls."

"Wanderlust," a new Judd Apatow-produced comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, and the thriller "Gone" starring Amanda Seyfried were both flops, opening to just $6.6 million and $5 million, respectively.

"Act of Valor," which has won plaudits for its ultra-realistic action sequences that feature the SEAL stars in training exercises, was a big bet for Relativity. The financially struggling independent studio topped other bidders by paying $13.5 million for rights to the movie produced by production company Bandito Brothers. It also committed tens of millions of dollars to an extensive marketing campaign that included four ads in and around the Super Bowl and online material targeting video game players.

But the investment appears to be paying off, as box-office receipts came in at the high end of pre-release expectations. Just as important, audiences loved the film, giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That was not only true for men, who made up 71% of the audiences, but women. Strong word-of-mouth could help "Act of Valor"

Despite the softer-than-usual opening for "Good Deeds," distributor Lionsgate is optimistic the film will ultimately end up close to the average total gross for Perry's movies, about $50 million. The studio's executive vice president of distribution, David Spitz, noted that a higher-than-average Friday-to-Saturday box-office increase of 25%, plus an A CinemaScore, indicate that Perry's mostly female and African American fan base loved the movie.

The same can't be said for "Wanderlust," which had the second-lowest opening ever for a movie produced by comedy guru Apatow, ahead of the 2007 music parody "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." The film about an uptight Manhattan couple who move to a commune got a CinemaScore of B-. It was financed by Universal Pictures and a fund previously managed by Relativity for around $35 million.

The weak opening for "Gone" marks the second time in a row that a film released by Summit Entertainment has opened behind one from the studio that bought it in January, Lionsgate. Audiences didn't like the low-budget film, for which Summit acquired domestic distribution rights from financier Lakeshore Entertainment, giving it a CinemaScore of just C+ from its mostly female audience.

Also notable at this weekend's box office: The Channing Tatum-Rachel McAdams romantic drama "The Vow" took in $10 million and brought its total gross to more than $100 million, become the first movie released by Sony Pictures' Screen Gems genre label to do so.

The Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds thriller "Safe House," which also opened Feb. 10, is right behind at $98.1 million.

[Updated, 11:18 A.M., Feb. 26: It was a third movie that opened that weekend, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," which had the strongest performance. With ticket sales down only 32% compared with last weekend, it grossed $13.5 million, slightly more than "Safe House" or "The Vow." Its domestic total is now $76.7 million, while a strong overseas performance has helped it to a worldwide total of more than $235 million.

Liam Neeson thriller "The Grey" has become the first breakout hit from new studio Open Road Films, co-owned by theater chains AMC and Regal, surpassing $50 million this weekend.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic office, with international results when available, according to studio estimates:

Continue reading »

'Twilight: Breaking Dawn' DVD sales top 'Eclipse,' trail 'New Moon'

TwilightBreakingDawnEdwardBella

The latest "Twilight" movie sold more DVDs on its opening weekend than the prior installment, but Bella, Edward and Jacob are still well behind their record.

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1," the fourth picture in the hit teen vampire series, sold an estimated 3.2 million DVD and Blu-ray copies from its Saturday morning debut through Sunday night, according to Lionsgate's recently acquired Summit Entertainment unit, which released the film theatrically in November.

That's about 18% more than the home entertainment bow of the last "Twilight" picture, "Eclipse."

However, it's 20% behind the debut sales of "New Moon," the second "Twilight" movie, which sold 4 million copies it first weekend. The original "Twilight" sold 3.8 million copies on its first weekend.

"Eclipse" was the only "Twilight" movie to launch on DVD in December, as it was also the only one to hit theaters in the summer. The first two debuted on DVD in March of 2009 and 2010, respectively, closer to the February date for the latest installment.

Summit charged a higher wholesale price for "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" than previous "Twilight" movies, meaning revenue per copy sold was higher than in the past.

"Breaking Dawn" also sold 50,000 digital copies and was rented 80,000 times via video-on-demand. Those figures are up 47% and 142%, respectively, over "Eclipse," according to Summit.

The final "Twilight" movie, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2," is due in theaters Nov. 16.

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-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment

'Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2' trailer to debut on 'Hunger Games'

The Hunger Games

The trailer for the fifth and final "Twilight" movie, "Breaking Dawn Part 2," will debut exclusively on "The Hunger Games" in March -- the first significant example of synergy between Lions Gate Entertainment and its new subsidiary Summit Entertainment.

When the studio acquired Summit in January, Lions Gate executives touted the opportunities that would come from bringing together two of Hollywood's hottest young adult franchises. Because fans tend to get excited about seeing the first trailer for a highly anticipated sequel, Lions Gate is betting it can bring the huge base of "Twilight" fans to the opening weekend of "The Hunger Games," which debuts March 23.

"'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2' trailer will debut exclusively on every 'Hunger Games' print on its opening night for what will be Lions Gate's largest release ever," Santa Monica-based Lions Gate's chief executive Jon Feltheimer said on a conference call with analysts Friday following the release of its financial results.

PHOTOS: What's next for the stars of 'Twilight'?

While anticipation for "The Hunger Games" is high, the film is still a risk for Lions Gate, which spent nearly $100 million to make the picture before the benefit of tax credits and international pre-sales. This is the studio's biggest film budget to date. The company is counting on a successful launch for the March release to not only generate immediate profits but create momentum for three planned sequels. "Breaking Dawn Part 2" will open in November.

A successful launch for "The Hunger Games" will help Lions Gate to replace Summit's "Twilight," which ends its run on the big screen with the fifth installment. Four previous movies have grossed a total of $2.5 billion worldwide and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.

Asked on the conference call whether there could be a sixth "Twilight" film," Lions Gate motion picture group co-chairman and former Summit co-chief Rob Friedman said that was entirely up to Stephenie Meyer, author of the teen vampire books.

If she were to write a sixth book, he said, Lions Gate would eagerly support it with a big screen adaptation.

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Photo: Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

Lionsgate's Shearmur expected to leave as Summit's Feig steps in

SummitWachsCondonFeigLionsgate's president of production, Alli Shearmur, is expected to leave the company sometime after the March release of "The Hunger Games," said people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly. The studio announced Thursday that Summit Entertainment's production chief Erik Feig has been named to her job.

The change is part of a management shakeup in Lionsgate's film division following the Santa Monica company's acquisition of "Twilight" studio Summit last month for $412.5 million.

Lionsgate is currently talking to Shearmur about a potential producing deal with the studio, said one of the people familiar with the matter.

In leaving Lionsgate's executive ranks, Shearmur would join her ex-boss, former motion picture group chairman Joe Drake, who was replaced by Summit's co-chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger. Drake is also expected to depart after "Hunger Games."

Many of Summit's senior film executives who worked under Friedman and Wachsberger at Summit are also expected to transition into top posts at Lionsgate.AlliShearmur

Shearmur's fellow production president, Michael Paseornek, is expected to remain at Lionsgate, as he has a long-standing relationship with actor-filmmaker Tyler Perry, who typically makes two movies per year for the studio, and also oversees the film division's lower-budget genre movies. Paseornek, who also oversees physical production, is expected to report to Feig.

Shearmur's focus on bigger-budget pictures with broader commercial ambitions crosses over more directly with Feig's experience.

Feig made his mark as the executive who helped bring the "Twilight" teen vampire project to Summit. The four "Twilight" movies released so far have collectively grossed $2.5 billion worldwide. That, along with the expected revenue from the fifth and final film that comes out in November, represent the primary value of Summit.

Outside of "Twilight," Summit has had a weak box-office record, with flops including "Furry Vengeance," "Bandslam," "The Beaver" and the current release "Man on a Ledge," outweighing a handful of hits such as "Red" and "Knowing."

In 2010, Feig rejected overtures by Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross to be named president of production at that studio.

Shearmur, who joined Lionsgate in 2008 a year after she was forced out of Paramount Pictures, has overseen the studio's hugely anticipated "Hunger Games" adaptation and the upcoming adaptation of the best-selling book "What to Expect When You're Expecting," featuring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez. She also worked on the flop "Abduction," starring Taylor Lautner.

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— Ben Fritz

Top photo: Summit co-chairman Patrick Wachsberger, left, director Bill Condon and Erik Feig at the premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" in November. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images. Bottom photo: Alli Shearmur. Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Mandate Pictures may spin off from Lions Gate with Joe Drake

Joe Drake Lions Gate

Mandate Pictures, the Lions Gate Entertainment-owned film finance and production company behind such movies as "Juno," "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," and "Young Adult," may soon regain its independence -- under the management of Joe Drake.

As part of the executive's planned departure from the Santa Monica studio next month, Lions Gate senior management has held preliminary talks with former motion picture group chairman Joe Drake about partially or entirely spinning off Mandate, which he co-founded nine years ago, two knowledgeable people not authorized to speak publicly confirmed.

Drake's plans have been unclear since Lions Gate acquired Summit Entertainment in January and installed its co-chairmen, Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, in Drake's job. At the time, Lions Gate Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer said Drake would stay on to oversee the March 23 release of "The Hunger Games," the studio's most expensive and highest profile production to date.

It now appears that Drake could reclaim his old seat at Mandate. The executive helped launch Mandate in 2003 and ran it until 2007, when he sold the independent studio to Lions Gate for $60 million and assumed his role as motion picture group chairman.

However, Drake always maintained his title as CEO of Mandate  while leaving the day-to-day operations of the venture to president and fellow co-founder Nathan Kahane.

Now Drake and Kahane may take back control of Mandate and run it independently from Lions Gate, the two people familiar with the situation said.

It's not yet clear exactly what form that separation would take. One person close to the matter said the two firms would probably maintain a business relationship. In addition, Lions Gate would keep some control of Mandate's library of nearly 30 pictures.   

A separation agreement has not been finalized, however, and it's not yet certain that one will be reached, people close to the matter cautioned.

With Lions Gate's acquisition of Summit bringing together two film companies with separate production and marketing staffs, some in the industry have questioned whether Lions Gate would need a third movie division under the same roof.

Since it was acquired by Lions Gate, Mandate has developed a small slate of pictures that it co-financed with other studios, including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and even Summit. The upcoming Sam Raimi-produced horror thriller "The Possession" is the first film Mandate will release in partnership with its new parent company.

Other planned 2012 Mandate releases include the comedies "Great Hope Springs," with Meryl Streep and Steve Carell, and "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," starring Carrell and Keira Knightley.    

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Photo: Joe Drake. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

'Twilight' helps Summit Entertainment quintuple revenue in 2 years

TwilightTrio

Summit Entertainment's revenue more than quintupled from 2008 to 2010 based on the massive success of three "Twilight" movies, according to a regulatory filing by the studio's new parent company Lions Gate Entertainment.

As part of a presentation to potential lenders as part of its acquisition of Summit, which was previously a private company, Lions Gate disclosed Summit's financial results for the first time.

They show that from 2008, the year that the first "Twilight" movie was released theatrically, to 2010, Summit's revenue skyrocketed from $211.6 million to $1.15 billion. The Santa Monica-based studio also swung from an $85.3-million net loss in 2008 to a $352.2 million profit two years later.

In 2009, when the first "Twilight" movie came out on DVD and "New Moon" hit theaters, Summit made a profit of $145.1 million on revenue of $722.1 million.

2010 was a particularly successful year for Summit because not only was the third "Twilight" movie, "Eclipse," released in theaters, but both that picture and 2009's "New Moon" came out on DVD. Studios make most of their film profits from home entertainment sales and rentals.

In the first nine months of 2011, the most recent year for which Lions Gate released data, Summit's revenue plunged to $331.3 million and its net income was only $14.7 million. During that period, however, there were no "Twilight" releases.

The fourth "Twilight" movie was released last November and the fifth and final installment of the popular vampire series will be in theaters in November.

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Lions Gate acquires Summit Entertainment for $412.5 million

'Twilight' saga may continue after fifth film, Liosn Gate CEO says

Summit's Friedman, Wachsberger join Lions Gate; Drake plans exit

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Taylor Lautner, Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse." Credit: Kimberley French / Summit Entertainment

Summit's Friedman, Wachsberger join Lions Gate; Drake plans exit

SummitFriedmanWachsbergerRob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, co-chairmen of "Twilight" studio Summit Entertainment, have been named co-chairmen of the motion picture group for Lions Gate, which acquired Summit Jan. 13 for $412.5 million.

In their new jobs, the duo will be in charge of all film production, acquisition, distribution and marketing operations at the combined studio, as well as new home-entertainment releases of theatrical titles. They'll report directly to  Lions Gate Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer.

They are replacing Lions Gate's current motion picture group president and co-Chief Operating Officer Joe Drake. He will remain on board, however, to oversee the release of the studio's high-stakes movie "The Hunger Games" on March 23.

People inside Lions Gate not authorized to speak publicly are expecting more changes inside the motion picture group as Friedman and Wachsberger bring over many of their approximately 160 employees from Summit. A significant number of layoffs are expected between the two companies, which are around the corner from each other in Santa Monica. Approximately 500 people work at Lions Gate.

However, JoeDrakeLionsgatethose people said that further staffing changes likely won't be announced until after "The Hunger Games" hits theaters. The movie, which cost nearly $100 million to produce, is the first of four planned pictures based on the best-selling young adult book trilogy.

With the film in post-production and with marketing and distribution strategies already planned, Lions Gate management likely doesn't want to risk unnecessary unrest so close to the movie's launch.

Lions Gate did not announce Drake's post-"Hunger Games" plans. But people close to the company not authorized to speak publicly have raised several possibilities for the executive.

Those include signing a production deal that will keep him working on "Hunger Games" sequels and other projects as an independent producer. Another scenario is that he would have a role with his former company Mandate Pictures, a Lions Gate division that co-finances movies like "Young Adult" and the "Harold and Kumar" series with other studios.

Drake previously ran Mandate and sold it to Lions Gate in 2007 before taking his current post. After an initial strong run, he has been under pressure internally for the last year due to a string of flops including "The Next Three Days," "Conan the Barbarian," "Warrior" and "Abduction."

His contract ends in September.

The only difference between Friedman and Wachsberger's position and Drake's is the new duo's oversight of new home-entertainment releases of theatrical titles. That duty was previously handled within Lions Gate by studio President Steve Beeks, who remains in charge of library and direct-to-DVD pictures.

Though there is no official division of duties between the two, Wachsberger's background in international sales means he will likely focus more on that part of the movie business, while Friedman is expected to pay more attention to production and domestic distribution and marketing.

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'Hunger Games' could become a game changer for Lionsgate

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Photos, from top: Summit Entertainment Co-Chairmen Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman at their Santa Monica office; Joe Drake (Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times).

Miramax expansion plans revealed by failed Summit bid

Miramax co-owner Colony Capital may not have ended up buying Summit Entertainment, but its effort demonstrates that the private equity fund has big plans for the film library it bought from Walt Disney Co.
Miramax co-owner Colony Capital may not have ended up buying Summit Entertainment, but its effort demonstrates that the private equity fund has big plans for the film library it bought from Walt Disney Co. last year.

If it had succeeded in acquiring Summit, Colony had planned to merge it with Miramax, creating a studio with a library of 700 classic specialty titles, the "Twilight" franchise, a robust foreign sales operation and the ability to produce and distribute its own pictures, according to a knowledgeable person not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Colony, working with the Qatari Investment Authority and other partners, was one of two final bidders for Summit, but ended up pulling out in late 2011 as Lions Gate began to finalize the agreement that closed last Friday.

The strong push for Summit shows that Miramax's owners want to build their own full-service studio, the knowledgeable person confirmed. Don't be surprised to see Colony and its partners go after another similar acquisition, or invest in Miramax to create those capabilities, the source said.

Not that Miramax has fared poorly as a library management company since it was sold by Disney in late 2010 to a consortium including Colony, the Qatari Investment Authority and billionaire Ron Tutor. Financial data shared by Miramax Chairman and Colony partner Richard Nanula in December shows the company has added $325 million of contracted cash flow since it went independent, including $190 million from deals with digital distributors including Netflix and Hulu and $120 million from new DVD and Blu-ray deals.

As television deals put in place by Disney before the sale expire over the next decade, Miramax will also have the ability to generate new revenue from TV distribution.

The company's improved financial situation allowed it to issue debt in a $500-million recapitalization this fall that, Nanula said, has already returned the majority of the new Miramax owners' invested capital.

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Photo: Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment

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