Summit's Friedman, Wachsberger join Lions Gate; Drake plans exit
Rob 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, those 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.
-- Ben Fritz
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).