Several Summit Executives Are to Be Let Go

According to Variety:

In the wake of its acquisition by Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment began layoffs early this week, as head of TV distribution Alex Fragen, home entertainment head Steve Nickerson and Bobby Gerber, EVP home entertainment sales, are on the way out, Variety has learned.

The trio of execs got the news midday Monday, sources close to the company said. They were expected to remain with the company until early next month.

Fragen, Nickerson and Gerber all started with Summit in 2007, just as the company was finding its footing as a full service production and distribution studio. The layoffs were just the first of several expected as Lionsgate begins to integrate its operations with Summit, which the mini-major acquired in a January cash-and-stock deal totaling $412.5 million.

Lionsgate co-chairman and CEO Jon Feltheimer acknowledged at the time that overlap would cause layoffs. A month later, Summit co-founder and president of international David Garrett began preparing his exit, as Variety first reported Feb. 12.

These are not individuals that fansites have typically dealt with, with home-entertainment (AKA DVDs)we’ve always had a go between, so at the moment this does not affect us.

Lionsgate’s Breaking Wind Parody to Go Straight to DVD

So this is just an interesting tale in light of the fact that Lionsgate now merged with Summit. Apparently Lionsgate is the studio behind this Breaking Wind parody, something that admittedly escaped our notice up until now, and would have continued to escape our notice if Twilight Quebec hadn’t tipped us off. In fairness to Lionsgate they started this project before the Summit merger, and it probably seemed like a perfectly harmless idea at the time. There’s just supreme level of irony that Lionsgate is now the studio behind the movie, and the most offensive parody of Twilight that we’ve ever seen.

This is the description of Breaking Wind obtained from Moviehole who had the exclusive Moviehole

Writer/director Craig Moss, best known for the recent spoof “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It”, is sharpening his fangs, flipping up his black collar, ready to sink his teeth into a “Twilight” pisstake.

A film Moss planned to shoot back in the Summer of 2010, then known as “Fully Mooned”, has been set from pause to play. Only now, it’s got a new title. And a home.

Moss is directing “Breaking Wind”, a fun-poke at the hugely successful young teen movie series, for Stonebrook (“Pennhurst”, “Open House”). The title is of course taking the mickey itself; the latest “Twilight” flick is “Breaking Dawn”, released in November….The script for this one, penned by Moss, tells of a young woman named Stella who is forced to choose between ”egocentric” vampire Edward and ”horny” werewolf Jacob. Whichever boy can satisfying Stella’s more intimate needs gets the gig. Expect plenty of jokes that won’t be suitable for the younger of Taylor Lautner’s fans…”

Let’s back up to August when we first heard rumbling of a new Twilight parody. It seemed an odd project to us in that Vampires Suck (another parody) had recently come out, and it wasn’t a huge success. Fans who saw Vampires Suck thought it had some funny moments, but a lot of it was predictable. So we waited until we learned more.

Next, let’s jump ahead to December when a teaser was released and it was clear that this spoof was very R-Rated, and filled with humor that made The Hangover look like high-brow comedy. One of our commentators(who happens to be a straight male) said at the time, “I do have problems with bad parodies, and this has lame written all over it. Bathroom humor was funny when I was 13, but I’d much rather see intelligent parodies versus something that is just blantanty stupid…” Many, many of our readers (who do enjoy a parody suck as Vampire’s Suck, Jimmy Fallon in the tree, Hillywood, and others) were offended by the brief clip.

So today our friends over at Twilight Quebec tipped us off the the full trailer is out and the film (probably completely unsurprisingly) is going direct to DVD. The trailer is absolutely R-Rated (in fact it’s the first time I can ever recall seeing a trailer that is rated R) with graphic language and sexual suggestiveness. It would not be considered “work safe” at my place of business or at most educational institutions, so please be advised before playing the video if you so choose.

Variety Reports that Stephenie Meyer is Annoyed at Lionsgate CEO

As we reported back in January, a Lionsgate CEO saying that he hoped for more Twilight movies and a possible TV series didn’t mean that such a thing was eminent(see article here) We came to this opinion if for no other reason Stephenie Meyer would have to agree to such and she’s said numerous times that she is taking a break from Twilight and focusing (at least in the relative short term) on two other projects: The Host and Austenland. She made no mention of future Twilight projects when she updated her website for the first time in almost a year earlier this month. Additionally, she is very ‘hands on” regarding adaptations based on her work, and it didn’t seem likely that she’s give Lionsgate free reign to go ahead and dabble in a new movie or TV show without being majorly involved.

So, tonight it’s probably not surprising that a reporter for Variety Tweeted the following regarding the Lionsgate Hunger Game franchise and Twilight( bold emphasis ours).

HUNGER GAMES presales begin tomorrow; early tracking shows it outpacing the first TWILIGHT pic. My theory as to why: Safe for boys.

As long as we’re on topic: Stephenie Meyer was deeply annoyed that LG brass said they’d do more TWILIGHT pics. She has no such intention.

I’d bet the TWI franchise outperforms THG over time. But those openers & domestic BO figures will be competitive.(in response to this tweeted question: But we saw the following movies multiple times, and played out DVDs to death. I just don’t see that for “The Hunger Games”.)

EXACTLY (in response to this tweeted question: And absolutely no chance that it will surpass, or even equal, Twilight in the long haul.)

That was my point tho — TWI was overwhelmingly female. THG appeals across genders, and also touches fanboy elements. (in response to this question: the Twilight books have zero depth, Hunger Games have strong relatable characters…which should draw everyone not just boys)

 

It is also worth pointing out that though Lionsgate and Summit merged, we believe that there is still a large degree of newness as to what is the status of the films each organization has in its arsenal. They don’t fully know all the players and what their likely intentions are. With all the PR and questions from very corner, that’s probably what lead to what is looking more and more like a case of overly enthusiastic open mouth insert foot on Lionsgate’s part from speaking off the cuff.

For our part we wish the Hunger Games franchise well. It will do well if for no other reason like Twilight and the later Harry Potter books it has dominated the best seller charts for years. However because the New York Times (after the third Potter book) relegated these books to the children’s sections, so people don’t always realize how popular they are. The real test of popularity is looking at lists like USA Today that put all book sales against each other cross category.That’s where you see the Hunger Games, Harry Potter,Twilight, the Wimpy Kid, and several other “children’s/YA” series dominate the market. In other words, YA isn’t as much of a mystery as people think if they’d just look at book sales that matter on say USA today and the Wall Street Journal charts they’d have the info they need right at their fingertips.

Shout out to His Golden Eyes for being the first Twilight site to break the story.

Summit and Lionsgate Merger The Marketing Crew Seems to Stay Intact

As you all know we have been following the Summit and Lionsgate merger with great interest. There are two reports today worth noting out of the LA Times and Deadline. The LA Times has more of what we personally consider to be good news. (bolding ours)

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 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’ll 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. Approximately 500 people work at Lions Gate.

See more on the LA Times

So why in our opinion is this good for us. In looking a Deadline Hollywood stories and commentary as well as our own expereince, Summit despite criticism on a number of issues (we’re not saying they are perfect), is more responsive to fansites than most other movie studios by allowing fan site phone call interviews, red carpet presence, set visits, one-on-one interviews, and fan events. They also have a mastery of social media to a female audience unlike most studios whose efforts are hit or miss at best.

Lionsgate in the past has received heavy criticism from industry professionals and fans for ineffective marketing and a cursory at best knowledge on how fansites function, what their outreach is, the fact that more people visit there than their own movie’s facebook and webpage, and how to appeal to a fanbase (who will be your repeat viewers) vs your newbie viewers.

We personally experienced some of this with the Abduction marketing which was a lot of:
“we are doing this”
“here is your mission now do it”
“we want you all to tweet this item in these exact words today”
“maybe we’ll use one of your questions on a red carpet interview”

Rather than the Summit approach of,
“How can we appeal to your fans?”
“Do you think fans will like this message”
“can we do a phone call with cast members so you can bring the appeal to your audience”

…in other words  in our experience Lionsgate failed to realize that A) we’re not their interns, B) who was an operator of a fansite with reach vs. who was a really peppy fan (who is certainly a valued consumer, but only had 20 followers on Twitter), and C) fansites are their target market each with over 50K daily visitors a day so maybe what we had to say was important. And by “we” I mean a collective group of over 20 people.

So given the announcement of who is traveling over in this merger, previous reports of Lionsgate realizing that summit had the marketing edge, we think this a a good thing for Twilight, AND for you Hunger Games people, it’s a good thing for you too!

EDITED: Official press release here:

SANTA MONICA, Calif., and VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Jan. 20, 2012 /CNW/ – Following Lionsgate’s (NYSE: LGF) acquisition of Summit Entertainment last Friday, the Company has named Summit Co-Chairs Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger as Co-Chairs of Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group, it was announced today.

Friedman and Wachsberger will oversee all aspects of Lionsgate’s domestic and international feature film acquisition, production and distribution business as well as the home entertainment releases of theatrical feature films.

“Rob and Patrick have built a remarkable organization at Summit, and they possess all the entrepreneurial leadership qualities that define our Lionsgate culture,” said Lionsgate Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer and Vice Chairman Michael Burns. “They are two of the most talented motion picture executives in our industry, and they have a history of building successful companies. Their addition to our senior management team should accelerate our continued growth into a global media powerhouse.” Friedman and Wachsberger will report to Feltheimer.

“Given the upcoming March 23 release of HUNGER GAMES, I have asked Joe Drake, who has played such a pivotal role in acquiring, developing and building the franchise, to remain at the Company in order to shepherd the film’s theatrical launch,” continued Feltheimer.

“Jon Feltheimer, Michael Burns and the rest of the Lionsgate team have created one of the most successful and innovative entertainment companies in the world over the past 12 years, and we’re thrilled to marshal all of Lionsgate and Summit’s resources to begin the next chapter in this remarkable growth story,” said Friedman and Wachsberger. “We believe that the feature film slates and home entertainment operations of the combined company will have unparalleled resonance for audiences, creative talent and buyers around the world.”

Friedman and Wachsberger established Summit Entertainment along with Bob Hayward and David Garrett as a worldwide motion picture development, production and distribution studio in 2007 and guided its growth into a leading force in Hollywood. Prior to 2007, Wachsberger, along with partners Hayward and Garrett, created one of the world’s most successful international sales and distribution companies when they took ownership from the Summit Entertainment Group shareholders in November 1993.

The most recent Summit Entertainment quickly established itself by launching the worldwide blockbuster TWILIGHT SAGA franchise, which has already grossed more than $2.5 billion at the worldwide box office, in addition to such hit films as the action comedy RED, the romantic adventure LETTERS TO JULIET, the scifi thriller KNOWING and the Academy Award winning THE HURT LOCKER.

Friedman previously served as Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of the Paramount Motion Picture Group, supervising the release of numerous hit films including the multiple Academy Award winning blockbuster TITANIC. Prior to that, he served as President of Worldwide Advertising and Publicity for Warner Bros., where he was responsible for the release of over 180 movies including such blockbusters as SUPERMAN, BATMAN, BATMAN RETURNS, ACE VENTURA and Academy Award Best Picture winners CHARIOTS OF FIRE, UNFORGIVEN and DRIVING MISS DAISY.

With over 30 years experience in the production, distribution and acquisition business, Wachsberger helped build Summit into one of the world’s most successful international sales and distribution companies.

Prior to serving as Summit International’s CEO since 1993 and more recently also as Co-Chairman of Summit Entertainment, Wachsberger served for six years as President and CEO of Odyssey Entertainment and Odyssey Distribution where he acquired, coproduced and distributed his first acquisition, PELLE THE CONQUEROR, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film as well as The Palme d’or at Cannes. Wachsberger has also produced Paul Haggis’ IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, STEP UP, and the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie blockbuster MR. & MRS. SMITH, and he has executive produced such films as VANILLA SKY, BAD LIEUTENANT, WRONG TURN, Q & A, and SWITCH.

I Hope Doesn’t Mean It’s Going To Happen: Twilight TV Show Our Opinion

We are seeing a lot online regarding this LA Times article that quotes the head of Lionsgate talking about Twilight’s future (highlighting ours):

I’m anticipating ‘Breaking Dawn Part 2′ being $700 million-plus in worldwide box office,” said Jon Feltheimer, predicting the next film would slightly outdo the $697 million global take of “Breaking Dawn Part 1.”

Asked whether the franchise would continue in some form for Lions Gate, he added, “It’s hard for me to imagine a movie that does $700 million-plus doesn’t have ongoing value. It’s an amazing franchise that they have done a great job of maintaining with absolutely no deterioration. So the simple answer is ‘Boy I hope so.‘”

One person close to the acquisition deal but not authorized to speak publicly suggested that because Lions Gate, unlike Summit, has a television production unit, it could adapt “Twilight” for the small screen.

Asked whether there was a possibility of bringing “Twilight” to television, Feltheimer answered, “I would certainly hope so.”

We’d just like to point out a few things. In fairness of full disclosure we have no insider info here just background of experience with the Saga from February 2006, longer than any other currently running site.

—Summit doesn’t hold rights to Twilight other than the films that they have already done. To our knowledge they have not been granted the rights to do anything further with the series: TV, radio, plays, cartoon, etc.

—Even with a merger, Lionsgate doesn’t get extras, only what Summit currently has the rights to. So they can’t just up and decide “we are doing a TV show” They can certainly pitch the idea, but it doesn’t mean they have the rights unless Stephenie Meyer says yes.

—Stephenie Meyer is next working on The Host movie (not with Summit/Lionsgate) which is slated to start filming shortly and is slated to be a trilogy (according to the director).

—Stephenie Meyer’s production company, Fickle Fish Films, filmed Austenland last summer and will likely start to promote that project to buyers this spring.

—Given that Stephenie Meyer is going to be pretty busy with The Host and Austenland and she likes to be hands on with her items, it would seem unlikely that she’d give carte blanche to develop a TV series that she didn’t have time to give ongoing input on.

—There was some talk about Potter and Rowling extending their series too with the cry of “She’d be stupid not to”, with conventional industry wisdom saying “how can you walk away from this money” Twilight has sold 10’s of millions of books does anyone really think Stephenie Meyer is going to do something just for the money any more than Rowling did?

—Does TV really need another vampire and werewolf show? Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Teenage Werewolf, Grimm. At a certain point you hit saturation.

Now all the above being said, do we think there is a possibility for a Twilight TV series? For a Bella and Edward centric item, no, not really. As Stephenie said, that storyline has been wrapped up. Are there other areas?

To play Devil’s Advocate:
Where could a TV series go? Certainly, Jake, Renesmee, Leah have potential, but it would seem odd to us that Stephenie might let someone else develop what she might want to write herself.

So where is there room that wouldn’t mess with a future universe, and a certain element of drama that makes for good TV? Maybe with the Volturi and the Denali. There’s 1,000’s of years of back-story there that someone could have a lot of fun with and not per se affect sequel books.

So to wrap it up(again no insider info here) but our gut says Lionsgate may want a TV show, but it’s about as likely in the near future as it is for Aro and Edward to have a group hug while Jasper sings Love Is All You Need.

It’s Official Lionsgate and Summit Merge

According to the press release on the AP wire:

Movie and TV studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. is buying Summit Entertainment, the maker of the hit “Twilight” series for teens, for $412.5 million in cash and stock. The deal announced Friday brings together two studios hoping to create a Hollywood powerhouse focused on young adult audiences.

The “Twilight” franchise has grossed more than $2.5 billion worldwide since the first movie blew out of the gates in late 2008, and hordes of fans of the Stephenie Meyer books rushed to theaters. The finale of the five-movie juggernaut, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2,” is due out in November.

Meanwhile Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. plans to kick off its own four-part series based on Suzanne Collins’ young adult novels, “The Hunger Games,” beginning in March. The three books in the trilogy are ranked 1, 2 and 3 on USA Today’s best-seller list and there are about 23 million books in print.

Combined, the studios hope to reap the benefits of selling to similar audiences.

“They have a tremendous outreach with fans and the ability to reach them through email, Facebook, et cetera,” said Lions Gate CEO Jon Feltheimer. “Starting right now, today, we are going to utilize that institutional knowledge to move ‘Hunger Games’ ahead even more quickly.”

Summit co-chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger said in a statement, “We believe that the combined entity will be even greater than the sum of its parts.”

Lions Gate said the majority of the purchase was funded with about $300 million in cash on Summit’s books. It paid another $55 million from its cash reserves, took on new debt of $45 million and paid $50 million in stock. Another $20 million will be due in cash or stock within 60 days.

At the close of the deal, Summit’s existing term loan was refinanced with a $500 million debt facility secured by revenue from Summit’s upcoming and existing films.

Lions Gate said that debt is expected to be repaid well before the maturity date in 2016 and added that the transaction will “significantly” boost Lions Gate’s earnings starting in April.

Feltheimer said Lions Gate would look to consolidate and pare down the combined studios’ upcoming slate of movies but didn’t specify how much. Before the merger they were on track to release a combined 22 to 27 films a year, which would put them on par with Hollywood’s biggest studios. Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros., for example, aims to put out 18 to 22 movies a year.

For Summit’s owners, the deal represents another big payout following a special dividend of around $200 million that accompanied a $750 million refinancing in March 2011.

The biggest winners are Summit’s management, including Friedman and Wachsberger, which owns about 30 percent of Summit, and Summit’s majority owner Suhail Rizvi of Rizvi Traverse Management.

It was not immediately clear if Friedman and Wachsberger would continue to run Summit as a Lions Gate subsidiary.

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. already has a strong TV studio, which makes popular series such as “Mad Men,” ”Weeds,” ”Nurse Jackie” and is the key distribution partner of comedian Tyler Perry for his shows “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns.”

The studio had been distracted recently by a lengthy shareholder battle with activist investor Carl Icahn, who finally agreed last year to sell most of his shares and focus his attention elsewhere. Lions Gate had also taken a close look at buying faltering studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., but lost out to creditors who took it over in late 2010.

Both Lions Gate and Summit have head offices in Santa Monica, Calif., although Lions Gate is technically based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Lions Gate shares closed down 11 cents at $8.60 before the merger announcement.

So what does this mean for us fans? Given what they are talking about in regards to online communities and outreach, this is probably good for us. It seems likes Summit’s people who we have established a working relationship will remain. Historically Summit has been good in this area of fansite outreach, whereas Lionsgate has been in various instances been labeled as, ineffective, oblivious to, and even hostile to the fan community. Considering that there are a fair number of Hunger Games high profile fansites that are run by people connected to Twilight sites (three that come immediately to mind are Mockingjay, HOB, and Hypable) this is good for them as well.

Summit/Lionsgate Closing In On Deal

For those of your who have been following the coverage of the merger of Lionsgate and Summit, a final deal may be close at hand. The Hollywood Reporter states the following:

Two sources confirm that Lionsgate is closing in on an agreement to acquire Summit Entertainment for about $400 million in cash plus the assumption of debt. The sources say the deal also includes the services Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, the two top executives behind the studio that has ridden the Twilight movie franchise to the top ranks of Hollywood.

Sources also say that Lionsgate is very interested in bringing in Friedman and Wachsberger, the two leaders who helped propel Summit from an indie that was losing money to one of the most profitable studios in Hollywood. Since both companies have movie production and international sales units, it is unclear how they will be merged, but keeping key people in place does appear to be the intent.

As soon as we hear anything definitive, we will let everyone know! Read the whole story at The Hollywood Reporter.

 

Get a Scorecard Folks: Round Three of Who is Trying to Buy Summit Entertainment

OK, so first there were rumblings of a Lionsgate and Summit merger. There there was Miramax getting in on the act with their vast movie library. And now the story I had to read twice to make sure I understood it…Summit (at least two of the three owners) may try and buy itself…oh to be a fly on that lunchroom wall.

According to the LA Times:

As “Twilight” studio Summit Entertainment is immersed in negotiations with multiple parties to get acquired before the end of the year, a new bidder may have emerged: Summit itself.

Co-chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger are putting together a management buyout plan in partnership with a private equity fund to take financial control of Summit, according to a person familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly.

The plan would involve Friedman and Wachsberger buying out their current investors, which include private equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management and film financing and production company Participant Media. It would leave the two chiefs of Santa Monica-based Summit in control, as opposed to other proposals currently on the table that would merge the independent studio with Lions Gate Entertainment or Miramax Films.

As we’ve said before, we haven’t a clue in the world what all of this is going to mean in the long run other than to say it’s going to make life really interesting around here for the next 16 months or so!

Lionsgate and Summit to Merge?

Hypable is reporting the following:

Bloomberg is reporting that two movie studios well known to our readers – Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate – are in talks to merge.

Though it wouldn’t cause much that typical moviegoers would notice, it’d certainly be beneficial for Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games franchise given Summit has experience from turning Twilight into a major financial success.

See more on Hypable

We’ll have to see how this one goes down. If it does go through it’s sure going to make life interesting around here!