To most observers January's Lionsgate Summit merger couldn't have worked out better; Summit sold at the top of their game with one last "Twilight" still to come, and the merger went through before the launch of expected franchise "Hunger Games," which did not disappoint.
But integrating two organizations is not easy. Two release slates had to merge, with two sets of movies opening against each other in January ("Man on a Ledge" vs. "One for the Money") and February (Tyler Perry's "Good Deeds" collided with "Gone"), but the schedule has been alligned going forward.
And Lionsgate and Summit agreed that going forward some Summit pictures would keep that label, including sci-fi adventure "Ender's Game," which is in production and was slated to open in March 13, 2013. Now the film is being pushed back to November 1 not only to give the film more tentpole status and more time to get a boost from Comic-Con in July but the extra marketing bump that a finished print can provide.
This is a sign that the new Lionsgate motion picture team led by Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger (whose personal wealth increased dramatically from the Summit sale) are bullish on "Ender's Game." "Star Trek" writer Roberto Orci is producing the space epic, which Oscar-winning South African writer-director Gavin Hood ("Tsotsi") adapted from the Nebula and Hugo-winning1985 Orson Scott Card sci-fi novel about a brainy young strategist (Asa Butterfield) who is recruited by the International Fleet to help save the planet from another alien invasion. (Orci is also running a weekly production blog.)
One of the Lionsgate post-merger areas that is very much in play and in flux as management integrates two workforces and trims duplicative staffs is the international side of the company. Last month, insiders confirm, the company laid off 80 staff (about 12%) out of a total 675 employees (Lionsgate had 500, Summit 175) and more are expected to leave. With Summit's high-powered foreign exec David Garrett, who worked under Wachsberger for two decades, unexpectedly exiting the scene after the merger, and Lionsgate's international president Helen Lee-Kim, who came into the company with departing Lionsgate/Mandate exec Joe Drake, also prepared to leave after Cannes (both have their own entrepreneurial reasons for moving on), an announcement of a new Lionsgate foreign organization is imminent. No one knows this area better than Wachsberger, who is working with a deep bench. But losing both of these key execs was not in the merger game plan.