CBS Films insiders confirm that about three weeks ago, CBS Films co-president Wolfgang Hammer quietly segued to become a consultant focusing on digital content. Among the youngest production presidents of a major company ever, Hammer ran the film division with Terry Press, who is alone at the top. Under Hammer, Les Moonves’s boutique film label went from an original mission to create homegrown films, and became a significant player in the acquisitions game in the last few years while the original productions percolated, often with good results. Last Vegas, a homegrown film, was a sleeper hit, and the label made its highest profile acquisition when it paid $4 million for Inside Llewyn Davis. That movie didn’t garner Oscar love in the major categories after the prestige folk music film got a rousing reaction at Cannes last year and won the Grand Prix, but it got CBS Films its first ever Oscar noms and Golden Globes, and grossed just north of $13 million domestic. That number could have been higher had Oscar voters embraced it more fully, the way critics did. The label has made other big festival buys including the Toronto acquisition Salmon Fishing in the Yemen to put itself on the map.
The label has What If opening in August, Pride in September and just wrapped the teen comedy The Duff for a February opening. One potential gem it hasn’t been able to get into production is the series of bestselling novels by author Vince Flynn featuring counter terrorism operative Mitch Rapp. It’s a strong leading man role, but Flynn didn’t live to see the movie get made. He died of prostate cancer last year. Upcoming for CBS films is Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark, The Husband’s Secret and The Exes coming together. Hammer is a bright, aggressive young guy and this seems likely to be a transitional move to digital before he moves on to the next. Even when Moonves launched the label with senior Sony exec (and Last Vegas producer) Amy Baer, I always felt that Les has never really been fully in or out in trying to figure out CBS Films’ place in the universe. Press and Hammer certainly gave it an identity, but you never really got the feeling that they were going to have the resources to really chase after it and fully realize its potential. But there are good people there and Press is as good a marketing exec as you’ll find out there.
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