Amy Baer out as head of CBS Films
The departure has been in the works for at least several months and was timed to the end of Baer’s contract in October, according to a knowledgeable person not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. CBS Films will now be left without a single leader. Instead, a trio of senior executives, including Chief Operating Officer Wolfgang Hammer; Terry Press, a former head of marketing at DreamWorks who is consulting for CBS Films; and a third person not yet identified are expected to run the company and report directly to CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves.
Under Baer, a former Sony Pictures executive who left to start CBS Films in 2007, the studio originally focused on mid-budget dramas and comedies. Its goal was to capture a portion of the movie market mostly abandoned by larger studios and to provide films to CBS-owned premium cable network Showtime, which had lost its deals for movies from several other studios including Paramount Pictures.
But that strategy quickly fizzled as the movies did little business at the box office and the collapse of the DVD market meant CBS Films was bringing in less revenue than had been expected.
CBS has released five movies since its debut in early 2010, only one of which grossed more than $30 million, the Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy "The Back-Up Plan." Among the pictures that turned in weak box-office receipts were the Harrison Ford drama "Extraordinary Measures," teen love story Beastly" and Dwayne Johnson action flick "Faster."
The studio switched gears in late 2010 starting with the hiring of Wolfgang Hammer, a young executive recruited from Lionsgate, as Baer's No. 2. After releasing "Beastly" in March, the studio essentially halted its slate, stopping most projects in development and going to festivals to acquire movies for the first time. Since then, Moonves has been more closely involved in CBS Films' operations and Hammer has handled much of the deal-making, according to people who do business with the studio.
Going forward, the company is seeking to release edgier, more attention-getting movies that it either acquires or makes. The first release in 2012 will be the horror movie "The Woman in Black," an acquisition starring "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe that comes out in January. CBS Films surprised many at the Toronto Film Festival in September by acquiring one of the event's most buzzed-about movies, comedy "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen."
The studio is about to start production on "7500," a supernatural thriller from Japanese director Takashi Shimizu, best known for hit horror movie "The Grudge." Baer will produce CBS' upcoming comedy "Last Vegas," directed by Jon Turtletaub of "National Treasure" fame, which starts shooting in January.
"Going forward, we remain fully committed to the division’s focus on a targeted slate of smart acquisitions and quality homegrown productions in all genres," Moonves said in a statement. "CBS Films is small in the overall size and scope of our company, but continues to fit nicely with the Corporation's premium content strategy. We’re excited about its future and to start its next chapter.”
Baer's departure was first reported by Deadline.
-- Ben Fritz
Photo: Amy Baer, Carla Gugino and Leslie Moonves (left to right) at the premiere of "Faster." Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images.