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Shakeup at Focus Features: Peter Schlessel Named CEO as James Schamus Exits; FilmDistrict to be Absorbed by Focus

Photo of Paula Bernstein By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire October 2, 2013 at 2:57PM

FilmDistrict founder and CEO Peter Schlessel has been named the CEO of Focus Features, effective January 2014, Universal Pictures, Focus' parent, announced Wednesday. Current CEO James Schamus, who co-founded Focus Features over 12 years ago, will leave the company to work with director Ang Lee on his next film, which the two are producing and developing at Universal.
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Focus Features

Focus Features is getting a new focus. FilmDistrict founder and CEO Peter Schlessel has been named the CEO of Focus Features, effective January 2014, Universal Pictures, Focus' parent, announced Wednesday. Current CEO James Schamus, who co-founded Focus Features over 12 years ago, will leave the company to work with director Ang Lee on his next film, which the two are producing and developing at Universal, according to Deadline.

FilmDistrict will be absorbed by Focus, who will distribute FilmDistrict films scheduled to be released after January.

"The breadth and depth of Peter's experience in the film business including production, acquisitions, distribution and most recently running FilmDistrict, will be a tremendous asset to Focus Features as the company broadens its portfolio beyond the production and distribution of specialty product," said Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley. "Peter is one of the most talented executives in the industry and I'm confident that under his leadership, Focus will become even more of a force as the specialty film business continues to evolve."

Langley also said that the "new" Focus Features will broaden the types of films that Focus distributes and increase the number of films the division releases to as many as ten films per year. Focus Features will relocate its headquarters to Los Angeles and Schlessel will be shaking up the staff for a newly reconstituted Focus Features, with new hires from FilmDistrict as well as existing Focus Features executives, Deadline reports.

Founded in September 2010 by Schlessel and GK Film's Graham King and Tim Headington, FilmDistrict has had success with films such as "Insidious," "Drive" and, more recently, "Safety Not Guaranteed."

In addition to co-founding Focus Features, Schamus is an award-winning screenwriter ("The Ice Storm") and producer ("Brokeback Mountain"). During his tenure at Focus Features, the company distributed "Lost in Translation," "Milk," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "The Pianist," "Coraline" and "The Kids Are All Right."

For full analysis, check out Thompson on Hollywood.


This article is related to: Focus Features, Focus Features, Universal/Focus Features, Focus Features, Ang Lee, News