At an elegant soirée on the terraces of the Hotel du Cap on Friday night, Lionsgate bid farewell to its Motion Picture Group co-chairman Patrick Wachsberger, even bagging chanteuse Jane Birkin to provide a melancholy musical send-off.
Industry executives and talent poured in to the particularly hot ticket to show their support for veteran exec Wachsberger who is exiting the company six years after it merged with Summit Entertainment, which he helped launch in 1993. But he promised he is not retiring, assuring attendees, “There is much I intend to do between Lionsgate and the Pearly Gates.”
Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer introduced Wachsberger saying, “We have had a great time together. Patrick has not only contributed a tremendous amount to our company, as you all know, but a tremendous amount to the industry.”
Wachsberger thanked Joe Drake, his Motion Picture Group co-chair saying, “You’re gonna do great,” and thanked his “entire Lionsgate family for embracing me and my friends tonight and me for the last six and a half years.”
He called his time with Lionsgate “an incredible journey for me personally and professionally… merging Summit and Lionsgate, a publicly traded studio, presented me with new opportunities and challenges and resources that have been exhilarating and fruitful. It has been an amazing ride.”
He added, “Jon, Michael (Burns) and all of you I leave behind at Lionsgate, I remain a sizeable Lionsgate shareholder and will continue to support and root for you. And I’m confident the company will continue to prosper with the momentum we together energized.”
Drake told Deadline it was “a big night for Lionsgate — celebrating the company and this exciting next chapter, toasting Patrick and his many contributions to it. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be back at the wheel of the Motion Picture Group. It’s a great time to be Lionsgate.”
Wachsberger was clearely moved by the turnout, marveling to Deadline later on that it wasn’t just Lionsgate folks making the trek to the du Cap in his honor. Indeed, the top executives in Cannes all came out for him in an expression of warmth, listening closely to his and the other Lionsgate exec speeches.
Wachsberger also remarked on the presence of such directors as Denis Villeneuve, Doug Liman and Christopher Nolan who were poolside alongside the who’s who of the international business.
Revelers at the swanky do included Nolan, who noted to us this was his first-ever trip to Cannes and the party was his first stop. Also in attendance were Simon Kinberg (whose 355 was the other hot topic of the night), Ryan Coogler, Timothee Chalamet, Sam Raimi, Benicio Del Toro, Paramount chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, Universal Pictures International’s President of Distribution Duncan Clark, Focus Features chiefs Peter Kujawski and Robert Walak, Participant CEO David Linde and President of Narrative Film & TV Jonathan King, Fox Searchlight Film & TV Presidents of Production David Greenbaum and Matthew Greenfield, Metropolitan founders Samuel and Victor Hadida, and Mars Films boss Stéphane Célérier.
Many folks noted this has been a somewhat subdued Cannes Film Festival so far and were delighted to be fete-ing Wachsberger, who has been a force in the international space for more than 25 years.
As for Birkin, she serenaded Wachsberger and guests with a few French tunes by her late former husband, the legendary Serge Gainsbourg, and concluded with an emotional rendition of “As Time Goes By” as execs huddled in to snap pics and swoon.