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CBS names two co-presidents of its small film studio

Wolfgang Hammer, a fast-rising executive, and Terry Press, a veteran Hollywood marketing expert, will jointly run CBS Films. They take over for Amy Baer, who was pushed out as CEO in September.

April 24, 2012|By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times

CBS Corp. is turning to one of Hollywood's most experienced marketing experts and a fast-rising young executive to turn around its small film studio.

Terry Press and Wolfgang Hammer on Monday were named co-presidents of CBS Films, which suffered through several disappointments after launching in 2010, including the Harrison Ford drama"Extraordinary Measures," but recently began to right its ship with the February hit"The Woman in Black," starring Daniel Radcliffe.

The West Los Angeles mini-studio, which has about 50 employees, has been without an official leader since former President Amy Baer was pushed out in September. Soon after Baer's departure, CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said that although three of his film unit's first five releases had broken even, "They aren't movies that I'm proud of."

Hammer has been chief operating officer of CBS Films since December 2010, and Press has overseen marketing as a consultant since 2010.

"There was a great sense of urgency when we both got here," Hammer said in an interview. "It was a struggling organization that needed to be rebuilt."

The dual promotions represent a strong vote of confidence by Moonves, as neither executive has held the top job at a studio. He is said to have become a big fan of both Hammer and Press in the last year.

The two have reshaped CBS Films from a company focused on producing creatively conservative mid-budget pictures to one that acquires films at festivals and produces director-driven genre films.

"Being small allows us to take risks and try new things," Press said. "All of us here are invested in trying to find new ways to make movies relevant."

Besides being a consultant on CBS Films releases, Press worked on Lionsgate's recent mega-hit "The Hunger Games" and the 2010 Oscar winner "The Social Network." She previously oversaw marketing at DreamWorks and worked at Walt Disney Studios.

However, Press' purview has never before extended beyond advertising movies. In her new job, it will extend to the creative side, including development and production, along with theatrical distribution.

Hammer has had a meteoric rise in his short Hollywood career. After serving for just two years as a vice president of production at Lionsgate, he was a surprise pick in 2010 to be CBS Films' new chief operating officer. He is known as a savvy negotiator and will oversee business, finance and legal affairs as well as acquisitions.

"In Terry and Wolfgang, we are fortunate to have two very skilled executives, each with terrific knowledge of the business and strong resumes of innovation," Moonves said in a statement. "They both possess the 'roll up your sleeves' attitude for making, acquiring and marketing quality films for a division that is small in size but laser-focused on assembling a mix of home-grown productions and acquisitions across a diverse range of genres."

Along with "The Woman in Black," CBS Films this year released the romantic drama"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"in a limited number of theaters, to decent results.

Its next release is scheduled to be the August thriller "7500" from "The Grudge" director Takashi Shimizu.

"We're taking creative risks because we're scaling back on how much money we need to do things," Hammer said. "But we're still very muscular. This is not a rinky-dink operation."

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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