Back in June, I posted how Colin Callender had gone from heir apparent to has-been at HBO in just a few cruel years. And I said he’d be the next shoe to drop as the pay channel started to clean house. At the time the overrated legend-in-his-own-mind had rejected an offer from Walden Media to develop a new production slate and team. And every day there was a new murmur that Callender was actively looking for another gig now that he’d been stripped of a lot of his power. I also posted that, even though Callender’s contract isn’t up for a few more years, HBO brass Richard Plepler and Mike Lombardo had a so-called “strategy meeting” with Colin where he was told, “If you want to be here… be here. If you want to go… go.. But you don’t need to be snooping around surreptitiously for another job. If you find a better thing somewhere else, talk to us about it like a grownup.” Now comes the news that Colin is leaving HBO after 21 years to start his own company. Forget all the upbeat spin. Maybe more people would be sympathetic to Callender’s plight if only he hadn’t been such an arrogant prick prone to hissy fits all those years. Meanwhile, the insularity at HBO continues: once again, as opportunity to inject new blood from outside the pay channel is squandered as Plepler and Lombardo promoted from within. Here’s the press release:

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 14, 2008 – Colin Callender announced today that he has decided to leave his post as president of HBO Films.  Callender, who first joined HBO in 1987 after establishing himself as one of Britain’s leading film and television producers, plans to launch a new entertainment and content company, the details of which will be announced in 2009.

Under his leadership, HBO Films set a new standard for quality films and miniseries – and this year once again dominated the Emmy® Awards with a record-breaking 13 wins for JOHN ADAMS (including Outstanding Miniseries) and three for RECOUNT (including Outstanding Made for Television Movie).

Upon Callender’s departure Kary Antholis will become president, HBO Miniseries and Len Amato will become president, HBO Films, both reporting to Michael Lombardo, president, Programming Group and West Coast Operations.

“This past year at HBO Films has been nothing less than extraordinary, and it’s the perfect time for me to move on to a new challenge,” said Callender.  “My career has been shaped by the one constant in this industry – change – and for some time I’ve had a hankering to return to my entrepreneurial roots.  With the industry in the midst of a major transformation, and coming off this great year, I can’t think of a better time to launch my own company.”

Callender added, “Working at HBO has been a wonderful experience.  We took risks and broke all the rules.  I enjoyed unique creative freedom and had the privilege of working with some of the finest creative talent on both sides of the camera.  I got to share this amazing ride with a group of colleagues who are among the smartest in the business.  HBO Films has an exciting slate of upcoming productions, and I leave the division in the hands of a remarkable team led by Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo.”

“Colin’s contributions over these many years have been nothing short of extraordinary,” says Richard Plepler, co-president, HBO.  “His vision, intelligence and unique talent are responsible for the widespread acclaim his films and miniseries receive year after year.  We will certainly miss him and hope and expect to have a continued collaboration with Colin and his new company.”

Adds Lombardo, “Colin’s creative instincts and vision have brought HBO Films to an extraordinary position of prominence in the entertainment industry.  The wealth of outstanding films and miniseries that Colin has spearheaded for HBO Films has given that area a signature stamp of prestige that has branded HBO.  The only silver lining is that Colin will be leaving his portfolio in the hands of two very able executives in Len Amato and Kary Antholis, who will be stepping up to President, HBO Films and HBO Miniseries, respectively.”

Callender departs HBO Films having accumulated an unprecedented track record that includes 84 Emmy® Awards, 26 Golden Globes, 9 Peabodys, 12 Humanitas Awards and top honors at the Sundance Film Festival, and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He joined HBO in 1987 as executive producer of HBO Showcase, later HBO NYC, and relocated to Los Angeles in 1999 when he became president of HBO Films, consolidating HBO’s existing film divisions under the new banner.

Len Amato has been senior vice president, HBO Films since March 2007 and served as executive producer on HBO Films’ RECOUNT.  Prior to HBO, Amato served as president of Spring Creek Productions.  His producer/executive producer credits include ANALYZE THIS, ANALYZE THAT, POSSESSION, RUMOR HAS IT, BLOOD DIAMOND and THE ASTRONAUT FARMER.

Kary Antholis has been senior vice president, HBO Films and Miniseries, since November 2004 and overseen the development and production of the HBO Films’ WIT and THE GATHERING STORM, as well as JOHN ADAMS, ANGELS IN AMERICA, GENERATION KILL and the upcoming THE PACIFIC.

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