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CBS Films Partners with Lionsgate Following Layoffs

CBS Films Partners with Lionsgate Following Layoffs

Does “Pride” cometh before the fall?
As a reminder of the hazards of today’s specialty marketplace, CBS Films is partnering with Lionsgate on wide releases. Even with the deep-pocket backing of CBS, which supplied the seven-year-old label with coveted output deals with Showtime and others, it’s risky to mount a distribution unit.
Under former DreamWorks and Disney marketing exec Terry Press, who was used to strategic spending to reach her goals, CBS bet heavily on moving away from its former genre success toward such high-profile films as the Coen brothers’ success d’estime “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which failed to wow Oscar voters despite millions invested and topped out at $13 million domestic.

2014 releases such as romantic comedy “What If” ($3.4 million) and critics fave “Pride” ($1.3 million) were also expected to perform at a higher level. Meanwhile 2013 boomer comedy “Last Vegas” was a $63 million hit, along with 2012 Daniel Radcliffe vehicle “The Woman in Black” ($56 million). 

Recent support staff layoffs (4-5 people, mostly support staff) anticipated further changes for the company, which says it will continue to distribute its own limited releases as well as ramping up to as many as 12 wide releases over the next three years for Lionsgate release. 

Comparatively, working with its exhibition partners Regal and AMC, Open Road Films under specialty veteran Tom Ortenberg has fared well with such acquisition hits as “The Grey,” “End of Watch,” “Chef” and “Nightcrawler,” a dark horse in this year’s Oscar race.

Other distributors are pulling in their sails in this tricky market, from the Weinstein Company, which is isn’t throwing the same big dollars after would-be Oscar contenders like “Tracks” and “Begin Again” that it once might have, to Focus Features, which is grateful to have Universal partner Working Title’s “Theory of Everything” this award season. Will there be more casualties ahead?

Until now, CBS Films, under CBS leadership, rarely took the VOD route until “Afflicted” which went out on VOD/limited theatrical and topped the iTunes horror charts earlier this year. Both wide releases distributed by Lionsgate and limited releases distributed by CBS Films will go to Showtime. 

CBS Films will acquire or produce films and shepherd their marketing while Lionsgate oversees distribution across all media, including theatrical and home entertainment platforms. Except for “The Duff,” Lionsgate will handle exclusive international sales for all titles.
CBS Films gains access to Lionsgate’s distribution prowess as well as its global sales infrastructure, while Lionsgate will gain a new and consistent source of wide-release films for its theatrical and home entertainment pipelines. CBS Films will continue to acquire, produce and self-distribute its own limited releases.
CBS Films President Press stated: “As we build our homegrown slate and expand our efforts in the acquisition space, we’re thrilled to partner with the outstanding Lionsgate team on a plan that provides the flexibility to handle these ambitions.” 
Lionsgate and CBS are also partnered in TVGN (currently being rebranded as POP).  The two companies also joined forces on well-received Toronto pickup “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.”  
The first teaser trailer for “The Duff,” the first film to be released under the new agreement, a high school comedy based on the bestselling novel by Kody Keplinger and directed by Ari Sandel from a screenplay by Josh Cagan,  will appear in theaters on Lionsgate’s global blockbuster “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” next week.


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