EXCLUSIVE: In what has been a revolving doors scenario in the exhibition and distribution world, Focus Features has hired Landmark’s VP and head film buyer Lisa Bunnell as their new president of distribution. Meanwhile, Focus Features’ previous distrib president, Jim Orr, is heading to Universal, as their EVP and general sales manager, an executive position previously held by Lisa’s husband Steve Bunnell before he left Uni in April to join Regal Entertainment Group as SVP, chief content and programming officer. Orr will report to Universal’s distribution chief Nick Carpou.
The staff announcements were made jointly today by Carpou and Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski, COO Abhijay Prakash and president Robert Walak. See the internal memos below.
It’s a big jump for Lisa Bunnell into studio distribution as her background is in exhibition. Prior to being at Landmark for the last decade, she worked for Loews Cineplex Entertainment for the last 17 years. We hear her name was on a short list of candidates for the job. She starts next Monday, Oct. 10 and will immediately start working on Focus’ upcoming awards season slate which includes Loving, A Monster Calls and Nocturnal Animals all of which came out of the Toronto International Film Festival with a lot of heat on them. In addition, she’ll be overseeing a new slate of Focus World titles.
In the meantime, with Lisa Bunnell’s exit, Landmark recently upped the company’s 15-year vet Mabel Tam to VP and head film buyer. It was soon after Tam’s promotion, that we promptly heard about the news at Uni and Focus distribution.
Orr was the president of distribution for FilmDistrict and came to Focus for the top distribution post after Peter Schlessel took over Focus as CEO in October 2013 from James Schamus. Orr has more than two decades of distribution experience. He held positions at MGM and Paramount Pictures including EVP and general sales manager of theatrical distribution and SVP domestic distribution. At MGM he oversaw domestic releases including Hot Tub Time Machine and Valkyrie. Orr was also president of Steamboat Rock Entertainment, a motion picture releasing and entertainment industry consulting company where he worked with a number of companies including Miramax, the anti-piracy technology company PirateEye and the social media-based portal Tugg.
Internal Focus Features memo:
SUBJECT: Staff Announcement October 4, 2016 Dear Colleagues,
As you know, Jim Orr is segueing over to Universal Pictures to join the studio as Executive Vice President and General Sales Manager for the domestic theatrical distribution division. Jim has been an invaluable leader and colleague over the past three years, guiding us to successful runs while also being an invaluable part of our culture during this transition.
As much as we will miss Jim, we can now share the good news with you that Lisa Bunnell is joining Focus Features as our new President of Distribution. Lisa begins work next Monday, October 10th.
Lisa’s career in exhibition has established her as a major champion and booster of specialty films. She comes to Focus following 10 years at Landmark Theatres, where she has been serving as their Head Film Buyer. Prior to that, she was at Loews Cineplex Entertainment for over 17 years. Her wealth of expertise, understanding of the ever-changing marketplace, and passion for great movies makes her the perfect executive for Focus, and we are proud to have her joining our team.
Lisa will be overseeing all domestic theatrical release plans, working with the Distribution team beginning right away on our tremendous Focus Features fall/winter lineup of LOVING, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, and A MONSTER CALLS. She will also be coordinating the new slate of Focus World theatrical releases.
We know you will join us in welcoming Lisa to Focus next week, and in looking ahead to a productive future with her.
Peter, Abhijay, and Robert
Internal Universal memo from Carpou:
SUBJECT: Staff Announcement
I am pleased to share that Jim Orr has been named Executive Vice President and General Sales Manager for the studio’s domestic theatrical distribution division. He joins the Universal team from Focus Features where he oversaw distribution since 2013. Jim is filling a critical role at the studio, which has been vacant since the departure of Steve Bunnell.
Jim is a seasoned distribution executive who is widely-respected in the exhibition community. He also has a clear and practical view of the evolving marketplace. He has done a terrific job at Focus Features and we look forward to his dynamic leadership of Universal’s domestic sales effort. For the past few months, Jim has been wearing two hats – overseeing the Focus slate while working closely with the Universal team – as Focus searched for a seasoned specialty veteran.
Succeeding Jim at Focus is Lisa Bunnell, who becomes the new President of Distribution, overseeing Focus’ domestic theatrical releases. Lisa joins Focus following 10 years at Landmark Theatres, as Head Film Buyer there since 2014. We are confident this will be a seamless and smooth transition.
Please join me in congratulating Jim on his new role.