EXCLUSIVE: The news that Universal dropped another bombshell today and announced that James Schamus would leave as head of Focus Features has left everyone at that boutique label reeling. But it hits the company’s New York staff hardest: Several sources have told me that during the teleconferenced announcement that Focus would be overhauled with FilmDistrict head Peter Schlessel taking the reins, staff was told that the New York headquarters of Focus would be closed and that the operation would be based on the West Coast. New York headquarters houses nearly half the Focus operation, and 40-50 people work there. The employees range from distribution head Jack Foley to the company’s leaders Schamus and Andrew Karpen, and a slew of marketing and publicity and other support staff. There was no timetable given for the closure, but it is a blow for film in New York because, like Bruce Springsteen says in the song, “Foreman says these jobs are going boy, and they ain’t comin’ back.” Coupled with the big hit yesterday in which Paramount cut 110 employees, and it feels easy to be a bit depressed about this business, which seems to be getting harder and harder. Some of those Focus staffers could be invited to relocate, but we essentially have two organizations merged into one, and there will be casualties.
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