With its last three films flopping at the box office and the high-stakes release of "The Hunger Games" looming, Lionsgate is bringing some big new names into its film division.
The Santa Monica studio has hired veteran marketing executive Terry Press as a consultant to help plan and execute the advertising campaign for "Hunger Games," the $80-million-plus production based on the bestselling book trilogy; the film opens in March. Press spent more than a decade as a top marketing executive at DreamWorks before leaving in 2007 to run her own company. She has since consulted throughout Hollywood, including helping to run marketing for CBS Films and working on last year's "The Social Network."
Her hire marks the first time Lionsgate has recruited a consultant to work under Marketing President Tim Palen. It has more at stake with "The Hunger Games" than on any film before: It's Lionsgate's most expensive production and the first of four planned pictures that Wall Street analysts are expecting to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.
Lionsgate's motion picture group, run by President Joe Drake, is in a difficult spot because of the disappointing performances of "Conan the Barbarian," "Warrior" and "Abduction" over the last two months.
The studio has recruited a new executive to run its distribution department, which plans release dates and books films in theaters. Chris Leroy, a former executive vice president of distribution at Walt Disney Studios, is interim president of distribution for Lionsgate, reporting to Drake. He was the No. 2 distribution executive at Disney until early this year, when he left with a wave of others who have departed under new Chairman Rich Ross.
The department had been run for the last two years by David Spitz, executive vice president of distribution, who now reports to Leroy.
The changes indicate Lionsgate management believes its recent woes lie not in the quality of the movies its production executives are making but with its distribution department, and also that its marketing group needs high-powered assistance on "Hunger Games."