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.
Summit formerly released 9 to 10 pics a year on its own, and Wachsberger and Friedman owned just under 30% of the privately owned studio with other investors the remaining, including Rizvi Traverse Management which had a lions share. Summit was responsible for the Twilight Saga franchise — $2.5 billion at the worldwide box office already — which comes to an end with Breaking Dawn Part 2 debuting on November 16. For publicly traded Lionsgate this deal for Summit gives it cash as a badly needed hedge in case the forthcoming The Hunger Games movie based on the bestselling book doesn’t turn Twilight-huge.
When the studios combined forces on January 13th, lionsgate emphasized how “the transaction unites two leading studios with powerful brands and complementary assets. The integration of both Summit’s domestic and international theatrical film operations will significantly enhance Lionsgate’s production and distribution capacity, while also extending the company’s worldwide reach and creating a dominant international sales organization. Burns praised how “Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger have built a remarkable organization, and we’re pleased to welcome Summit’s talented team to the Lionsgate family.” Said Friedman and Wachsberger: “We believe that the combined entity will be even greater than the sum of its parts and our dramatically enlarged media platform will create tremendous opportunities for all of us within the Summit and Lionsgate families. The combination of Lionsgate and Summit will be the next chapter in creating a true global media powerhouse.”