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Summit co-chairmen to head motion picture group for Lions Gate

Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger are replacing Joe Drake, who will remain on board to oversee the release of the combined studio's high-stakes movie 'The Hunger Games.'

January 21, 2012|By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times
  • Patrick Wachsberger, left, and Rob Friedman arrive at the premiere of Summit Entertainment's "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles in November. They have been named co-chairmen of the motion picture group for Lions Gate, which acquired Summit on Jan. 13 for $412.5 million.
Patrick Wachsberger, left, and Rob Friedman arrive at the premiere of Summit… (Kevin Winter, Getty Images )

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 on 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 will 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. About 500 people work at Lions Gate.

However, those people said further staffing changes probably 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 bestselling young-adult book trilogy.

With the film in postproduction and with marketing and distribution strategies already planned, Lions Gate management probably 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 post there. After an initial strong run, he has been under pressure internally for the last year because of 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 duo's added oversight of new home-entertainment releases of theatrical titles.

Though there is no official division of duties between the two, Wachsberger's background in international sales means he is likely to 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@latimes.com

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