The same day mini-major announced that its movies will stream in China, the co-chairman of Lionsgate‘s Motion Picture Group have been tapped to receive the Motion Picture Showmanship Award. The ICG Publicists Guild will honor Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman for their career achievements. “These are two of the nicest guys in the business, and they have an uncanny ability to find the right property and make a success of it,” ICG President Steven Poster said. Lionsgate is in theaters with the Robert Redford starrer All Is Lost and has mega-sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opening November 22. The execs will receive the award February 28 during the 51st annual Publicists Awards Luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Lionsgate’s Patrick Wachsberger & Rob Friedman Set For Motion Picture Showman Of The Year Award From Publicists Guild
In the end it probably was not too surprising that Cheryl Boone Isaacs was elected President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences at last night’s Board of Governors meeting. As I pointed out in my election preview last week, she is the only one in Academy history to have served in every elected office the Academy has – VP, Treasurer, Secretary, Academy Foundation President, First Vice President most recently, and even produced last year’s Governors Awards. That the Board essentially elevated her up one notch to President after her 21 years of service seems a natural. Then again it doesn’t always go down the “natural” way in show business.
But of course her election is historic for another reason. She becomes only the third woman (after Fay Kanin and a combative two-week stint in 1941 for Bette Davis) and first African-American to become Academy President. Much is being made in the media of the latter distinction, but Boone Isaacs just shrugs it off. With Dawn Hudson as CEO and now Boone Isaacs as President, plus a record 14 women on the Board Of Governors and a meaningful drive toward diversity in the overall membership, it is going to be harder than ever for critics to haul out the usual ‘It’s just an old white man’s club’ description when talking about this new age Academy, even though it is a long way from completely changing its image. But I think more than anything Boone Isaac’s election is a vote for stability in an organization trying to come to grips with a changing business and world. She’s a familiar face, and well-liked within the Academy and that goes a long way in this prestigious position she has now inherited from outgoing one-term President Hawk Koch. When I spoke to Boone Isaacs this morning she was basking in the glory of her election, but definitely looking to the future.
UPDATE: Cheryl Boone Isaacs Elected President Of Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences; Board Officers Include John Lasseter & Dick Cook
UPDATE, 8:52 PM: The Academy tonight has also elected Disney/Pixar’s John Lasseter as First VP, the position Cheryl Boone Isaacs held before being voted president earlier in the night by the Board of Governors. Jeffrey Kurland and Leonard Engelman were elected to VP posts, Dick Cook was elected treasurer, and Phil Robinson was elected secretary. Officers serve one-year terms, with a maximum of four consecutive years in any one office. AMPAS’ full release is below the original break.
PREVIOUS, BREAKING, 6:52 PM… The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences‘ newly selected Board of Governors just made history: it has elected marketing executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs as the new president. She becomes the first black president of AMPAS and only the third woman elected to the post. The Academy sent word via its Twitter feed; Governors are still voting on the rest of their officers and will send the full results of those elections soon. Boone Isaacs, a marketing consultant, has the most AMPAS experience: she currently serves as First VP but has also been VP, Treasurer, Secretary, President of the Academy Foundation, and last year producer of the Governors Awards. She has worked at New Line and Paramount. She replaces current one-term president Hawk Koch, who served nine years on the board but is prohibited from running again as governors are termed out after 9 years. Though there was no formal campaigning for the job, it was clear this election came down to a pair of Public Relations branch candidates: Boone Isaacs and Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairman Rob Friedman. Both were in the running last year with Koch before he got the nod. Neither admitted to being a candidate this week, but Boone Isaacs told Deadline’s Pete Hammond that she would be beyond honored to take on the presidency of the 86-year-old AMPAS. “I would be thrilled and probably react like a schoolgirl if it happened,” she joked.
Here’s the official release:
On Tuesday night the new Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will meet to pick a new president. Current one-term president Hawk Koch has served nine years on the board and is prohibited by a dopey Academy rule from running again as governors are termed out after nine years. It seems odd that once elected president, even if termed out on the board, that you can’t have the opportunity to run for the full possible four one-year terms Academy bylaws allow. But the Academy being the Academy does things their own way. A new president is just learning the ropes in the first year so it seems short-sighted to cut that short.
Nevertheless, Koch is out (he’ll be returning to the co-presidency of the Producers Guild for another year) and the so-called race to succeed him is, by all accounts inside and out of the Academy, clearly between two officers: In one corner there’s Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairman Rob Friedman, who serves as Academy Treasurer; in the other there’s Cheryl Boone Isaacs, a marketing consultant who currently serves as First VP but is actually the only person to my knowledge who has ever filled every single elected Academy office except president. In the past she has also been VP, Treasurer, Secretary, President of the Academy Foundation, and last year produced the Governors Awards. Both, if elected, would be eligible to serve four one-year terms.
Like the Pope, the new prez will come from within the ranks of the 48-member Board of Governors (think of them as the College of Cardinals). But, other media speculation aside, I don’t think there’s much of a prayer that any surprise names will come to the fore despite the fact that a third of the board was just elected last week. When Koch was chosen last August, the only other names in nomination were, you guessed it, Friedman and Boone Isaacs. And then there were two. There seems to be no new revolution brewing within the Academy that would produce a third-party candidate.
The Academy also being the Academy sort of runs the anti-election, very under the radar. Neither Friedman nor Boone Isaacs would admit they are actually running for the gig, even after I asked both that question point blank. As Boone Isaacs said, “You have to understand this whole thing really just happens on one night (July 30)”. So there are no lawn signs, no campaign speeches, no fundraising — just a meeting. Although neither would admit they are a candidate, they both clearly are. “If chosen I will serve,” is how Friedman put it to me at last week’s Academy’s tribute to past president Fay Kanin. Although Boone Isaacs also wouldn’t declare her candidacy to Deadline at Monday’s Academy tribute to Wong Kar Wai, she said she would be beyond honored to take on the presidency. “I would be thrilled and probably react like a schoolgirl if it happened,” she joked.
After the six major studios wrapped up their turns in front of the CinemaCon convention goers with 20th Century Fox earlier today, it was Lionsgate‘s turn to carry the flag for the indie sector, even though NATO’s John Fithian said last year that in Lionsgate we are seeing the birth of the “seventh major studio”. And although some of the speakers during the company’s relatively brief presentation this afternoon took up that mantle, Lionsgate in its sizzle reel actually touted the fact that they are the only non-major to actually go over $1 billion in a single year — certainly thanks to the dynamic duo of Summit’s Twilight finales and The Hunger Games, which became the third-highest-grossing film of 2012 with more than $400 million domestically. So are they are a major? A mini-major? A true independent? Or just a money-minting film company with a couple of franchises the real majors would kill for (and in the case of Twilight actually passed on — ouch).
But as befits any wannabe major, a spiffier, more corporate logo was in order, and as Deadline reported earlier they debuted it for the theatre owners here in Las Vegas. As distribution head Richie Fay put it during his turn onstage, “Lionsgate is an overnight success that was 12 years in the making”.
As far as the presentation went, Lionsgate certainly took an independent route from the way the majors have behaved all week, offering a musical-chairs lineup of executives taking their turn in front of delegates who crowded into the Colosseum to check out the product. In addition to Fay, we also heard from CEO and co-founder Jon Feltheimer, co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Rob Friedman and AMC theatres exec Elizabeth Frank, who pointed out the company released 20 major films in 2012 and led the field 11 separate weeks. She said her company was looking forward to the 17 movies on tap this year and many of them were showcased for the first time over the course of the 80-minute show emceed by comedian Kevin Hart.
The former California governor has invited a few friends to the first symposium of his new USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, which the university announced last month. An invite went out today for a September 24 event announcing that James Cameron, Universal Studios president and COO Ron Meyer, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chair Rob Friedman, Imagine Entertainment chairman Brian Grazer and Interscope Records boss Jimmy Iovine will participate. Cameron, who helmed Schwarzenegger in the two Terminator films he starred in as well as in True Lies, will join Meyer, Friedman, Grazer, and Iovine on an afternoon panel titled “The Power Of People and Innovation — Media/Hollywood Leader’s Perspectives”.
What really happened behind-the-scenes of the election for a new president of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences tonight? Deadline’s Nikki Finke followed the twists and turns that led to Hawk Koch winning:
Make no mistake about it: veteran Hollywood producer Hawk Koch wanted the job “desperately”, in the words of both his friends and frenemies. Not just because he would be a second-generation president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences, but more because it would further frame his identity independent of a famous filmmaker father. (He’d already changed his name from Howard W Koch Jr.) And make no mistake about this, either: a group of Academy insiders just as desperately didn’t want him to be their president. One principal problem was that Koch can only serve for one year before he terms out on the Academy’s Board Of Governors. (He can run again for the panel after a hiatus.) Plus, few others were as motivated to be president, and fewer still were willing to campaign as openly for it. (How to run for high office without doing it is a trick which even consummate politicians haven’t yet mastered.)
So when those present among the Academy’s maximum 42 governors (usually 43, but screenwriter and past president Frank Pierson passed away days ago) gathered in their Beverly Hills boardroom on this Tuesday, it was for a ritualistic procedure that rivals papal succession. Choosing their current president followed seven months of twists and turns that almost no outsiders knew about. Suffice it to say that Koch’s name crossing the 50% threshold to be elected was both expected but unexpected. Here’s why:
Koch’s initial lobbying to be in first position for AMPAS President began as far back as January when one of my insiders confided that Hawk during the last Oscars go-round told him he was going after the job. By March, it was an open secret that Koch was campaigning. “It was odd that Hawk has made it so clear that he wants to do it,” a source mused to me at the time. It was seen as unseemly. Because the sad fact is that, year after year, the AMPAS governors want most to run those candidates who don’t want them. But this year a small group of governors was actively campaigning against Koch’s candidacy. Their reason was mostly snobbism. “Look at the history of the Academy Presidents,” one insider explained to me, “Bette Davis, Cecil B DeMille, Gregory Peck. How unimpressive to follow those names with Warren Beatty’s line producer who insists on not being called Howard Koch Jr.”
Actors Tom Hanks and Annette Bening were unsuccessfully sounded out first, just as they are every year. Then the anti-Koch camp went to screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson, who didn’t want to do it. Strong names in the other branches were approached as well. But documentary maker Michael Moore “doesn’t make meetings and doesn’t have the time,” my sources told me. Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman Jim Gianopulos ”would have restored lustre” but also didn’t have time.
In the meantime, Koch kept campaigning. He explained away the biggest misgivings of his AMPAS colleagues during quiet conversations. He pledged that, although recently re-elected as Producers Guild president, he would resign and leave running that organization through 2014 to his co-president Mark Gordon. That he could accomplish a lot in only a one-year term. It was then he also started acknowledging both inside and outside AMPAS (even to the press) that he was officially open to being drafted. “They’re coming up and telling me, ‘You should be the next president.’ I’m flattered people are saying that,” Koch told colleagues.
He went around explaining his long 40-year history with the Academy, how he’d been on the Board Of Governors for 8 years, and chaired the General Membership Committee, and served on other panels. How he’d been an officer of the Board for 11 years, and then 1st Vice President. And so on. “I feel very fortunate to have a life in this business, and I love giving back to the business. It’s a legacy,” he told people in his stump speech. ”Everyone would most like to have Tom and Annette but they’re actors who don’t have the time. I know. I’ve been in the business since Clark Gable gave me my first horseback ride when I was 4 years old. I was really proud that the Producers Guild has become the arbiter of who really produced movies. And at the Academy I had a big part in changing the fabric of the rules. And if it happens that I became Academy President, I want to keep doing good. It’s a huge responsibility, exciting, scary, and also a thankless job. But you don’t get anywhere by just sitting off in the corner. I have ideas.”
Meanwhile the anti-Koch camp’s next phase was handicapping who’d win or lose the 2012-2013 Board Of Governors elections. Two very good possibilities for the presidency, Kathleen Kennedy and Mark Johnson, were running against each other in the Producers Branch. The thought was that, while reluctant, they might be draftable. Then on June 1st, George Lucas to great surprise hired Steven Spielberg’s longtime producer Kennedy as co-chair of his LucasFilms. Any hope that she’d also take on the AMPAS presidency faded. And when the elections were held, Kennedy defeated Mark Johnson, so he couldn’t be a candidate this year.
Next, veteran filmmaker Bob Rehme was seen as a strong éminence grise coming back on the board after a hiatus. And since he’d been AMPAS president twice before, a third term wasn’t out of order. But he didn’t want the gig. Two more women’s names circulated. Briefly, Gale Anne Hurd of the Producers Branch though she’s working mostly in television now. Very seriously, Cheryl Boone Isaacs from the Public Relations Branch who would have been only the third woman, and the first African-American, to hold the Academy presidency. But then this “great diversity candidate” was put in charge of the Academy’s 4th Annual Governors Awards, thus neutralizing her inevitability for now.
Deadline readers already know this news. But here’s the official announcement:
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.
Rob Friedman & Patrick Wachsberger Sign Lionsgate Employment Contracts; Joe Drake Stays To Run ‘The Hunger Games’
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that after some protracted negotiations Summit Entertainment co-chiefs Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger today signed their respective employment contracts with Lionsgate. Until that happened there was nothing binding the pair to Summit’s new parent company. An announcement will come down tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’ve also learned that Lionsgate’s current movie chief Joe Drake has decided to stay and continue shepherding The Hunger Games, the studio’s hoped-for blockbuster franchise whose first installment comes out on March 23rd. Drake will be reporting to Lionsgate chairman Jon Feltheimer and vice chairman Michael Burns. The two independent movie studios will operate separately for some time with Summit a standalone label not unlike New Line and Warner Bros. Friedman will run domestic and Wachsberger will run foreign along the same division of labor they had at Summit and together run the movie division for Lionsgate. The new product pipeline of Lionsgate-Summit will be 10 to 14 movies a year. Meanwhile Friedman and Wachsberger are still very busy with Summit business: the studio’s Now You See Me starts production immediately, while Man On A Ledge releases January 27th, followed by the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 DVD selling February 11th.
I hoped there would be fistfights. Or at least a chair thrown or two. “I tried but no one wanted to rumble,” Jeffrey Katzenberg told me later. Instead, Jeff Robinov, Tom Rothman, Rob Moore, Stacey Snider, Harvey Weinstein, Rob Friedman, and Katzenberg demonstrated remarkable restraint as they talked, joked, and mused about the Oscars process today. Everyone was ribbing everyone, and a few zingers landed as well. There were so many studio bigwigs at the first day of Deadline Hollywood’s two-day ‘The Contenders’ event (which continues Sunday at 10 AM with still more moguls) that it became a running joke. Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond opened up the 2 PM ‘Moguls Panel’ by saying, “This kind of event has never been held before. You realize that, if a bomb dropped in here, Amy Pascal would own Hollywood.” (The Sony Pictures chairman couldn’t attend.) The other studio chiefs came from hither and yon to attend ‘The Contenders’, and the packed crowd was obviously appreciative. ”Just sayin’ it doesn’t get any better than that. So rare in these times to have as august a group come together and discuss,” one of the attendees emailed me afterwards. That’s why our venue, the Landmark Theatre, pulled out all the stops, even reupholstering the seats in anticipation of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voters and select Hollywood Guild members who’d sit in them. More details about ‘The Contenders’ in coming days. Next week we’ll be posting the unedited video of the ‘Mogul’s Panel’ which was moderated by Hammond and Deadline Film editor/NY Editor Mike Fleming. Here’s some of the studio chiefs’ 1 1/2-hour-long discussion:
DEADLINE: “This is one of the most wide open Academy Awards seasons. Does that make you more likely to launch an aggressive campaign?”
TOM ROTHMAN, Chairman/CEO Fox Filmed Entertainment: “Yeah, we have a lot of pictures between the studio and Fox Searchlight. But I am a contrarian about this. I think the whole notion of a race and spending is hugely exaggerated. I think voters know what they want to vote for once they’ve seen the movies. Our job is to get them to see the movies. To advance positions for them to think about. Ultimately the Academy is gong to decide. And I think in contrast to what is often said, ultimately I think it comes down to the movies. As it should.”
DEADLINE: “Can an aggressive Oscar” campaign hurt?”
ROTHMAN: “Well, I don’t know, I guess there’s some truth to it. I suppose it depends on what you mean by campaign. Academy Award winners sometimes gain a momentum because of a particular performance, and sometimes for length of career and all the work that has been done. Look recently at Paul Newman. You might not say [1986's The Color Of Money] was his best performance. But he won for his great body of nominations and work. I don’t really think, being on the stump so to speak, when in the privacy of the voting booth which is their living room that it necessarily makes a difference.”
JEFF ROBINOV, PRESIDENT OF WARNER BROS: “I’d say Mr. Weinstein proves him wrong every year.”
HARVEY WEINSTEIN, CO-CHAIRMAN THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY: “That is the only thing that counts, so Tom and I agree more than you think.”
ROTHMAN: “You have just witnessed an historic moment.”
WEINSTEIN: “I’ve said this a thousand times. The most important job is getting voters to see the movie. If they don’t see the movie, they won’t vote.”
DEADLINE: “But it’s not as good to see these movies on a small screen via screeners.”
ROTHMAN: “It’s hard to get them to see movies on the big screen. Planet Of The Apes is not as good on a small screen. Also the other thing I think is time. It’s hard because of the crush of films that all come in at the end. Voters try to be responsible, but sometimes they’re seeing multiple movies [in one day]. I agree with Harvey completely on the need to see films in the theater as they were intended.”
KATZENBERG: “We could end up with a horse against an ape this year.”
DEADLINE: “Isn’t that especially true of 3D films?”
JEFFREY KATZENBERG, CEO DREAMWORKS ANIMATIONS: “Yeah, just to sort of cut to the chase on this, we spend 4 years and $150 million on trying to make an exceptional experience in the movie theater. And use tools one of which is 3D. So we settle for the fact that many many many people will never see it this way.”
DEADLINE: “Is it best to release an Oscar contender earlier in the year and get out early like The Hurt Locker did in June?”
ROB FRIEDMAN, CO-CHAIRMAN/CEO SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT: “I think what everybody’s saying is it’s vital to get the movies seen. In this case having the film out in June gave more time to build critical and audience response.”
DEADLINE: “How did The Hurt Locker manage to compete since its revenue cycle was over by the time big Avatar came out?”
FRIEDMAN: “By the way, I did offer Tom [Rothman] and Jim [Gianopulos] the offer to trade revenue streams.”
ROTHMAN: “We thought about it.”
FRIEDMAN: “Actually we had not completed our revenue cycle. It was not out on DVD yet. It performed massively in those revenue environments. We knew that any kind of Middle East/Iraq film was challenging at best. It found its level theatrically, but was enormous in the home market.”
DEADLINE: “Tom, would you have been happy to forget awards for Avatar as long as could count the money?’
ROTHMAN: “I guess the technical answer to that would be fuck, yes. [BIG LAUGH] Yes, we were disappointed to lose. I think Robbie and I found ourselves waiting for our cars by the heater that night, and I congratulated him mightily. But I made my career being honest, and if I said I wasn’t brutally disappointed it would be an understatement. I think it is a common problem that happens. David and Goliath is a very good narrative. It is easy to root for the little guy. I understand that emotionally. Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire was small and won. The Academy giveth, and the Academy taketh away. We had a good year with Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan and Best Actress last time. Those things happen. I do think, if I can get on my bully pulpit for a few seconds, that sometimes I think the craftsmanship and artistry in what is thought of as commercial cinema is not always given its proper place. Hurt Locker was ultimately thought the better film that year, that I understand. But when you look down categories, sometimes I think that other crafts get swept along. I was surprised and I would also say disappointed that the hard-working creative folks on Avatar were not recognized.”
DEADLINE: “Which other of your films were unfairly overlooked over the years?”
ROBINOV: “I think the quality of Harry Potter films has been somewhat discounted. Especially the last one. It feels like the type of movie that traditionally would receive some Oscar attention. Also Inception was a very bold movie, yet it was not rewarded for risk-taking, I do think there is some bias against Hollywood and the resources that it has. Nice when a movie like Titanic actually gets what it deserves.”
EXCLUSIVE: Summit Entertainment has acquired domestic distribution rights to I, Alex Cross, the reboot of the James Patterson franchise. Tyler Perry stars as the title character, with Rob Cohen directing. Lost‘s Matthew Fox was just set to play Michael Sullivan, a psycho serial killer who viciously murders Cross’s wife when the detective thwarts his earlier attempt to commit a murder. The drama becomes a mano a mano battle between cop and the killer who is one of the most memorable villains in Patterson’s novels. Ed Burns will play Cross’s partner Tommy Kane.
Three distributors chased the picture. One was Lionsgate, which has the long relationship on all the hit films that Perry has directed and starred in. But Summit Entertainment had an “in” as well: Summit co-chairman/CEO Rob Friedman. Friedman, former Vice Chairman and COO at Paramount Pictures Motion Picture Group, had an active hand in Paramount’s release of the first two Alex Cross films, Kiss the Girls and Along Came A Spider, which starred Morgan Freeman. He personally oversaw the acquisition and has a relationship with the author.