Damon Wolf, the head of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group worldwide marketing, is exiting his role. The news was just revealed by group chairman Joe Drake in a note to staff. There’s no word on a replacement.
Wolf was hired in as head of worldwide marketing in June 2018, moving over from an EVP role at TriStar Pictures, Screen Gems, and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. In that role he helped spearhead successful campaigns for Lionsgate’s John Wick franchise as well as the Oscar pushes for the studio’s Knives Out and Bombshell among other big hits.
In December 2020, Wolf was tapped as one of leaders of Drake’s revamped film division’s alignment into four key verticals: Marketing, Distribution, Strategy and Innovation, and Content. With that designation, he added to his global marketing and communications oversight to include all platforms and digital content releases along with theatrical and digital releases through the home entertainment window.
Both Wolf and Drake said the decision came after conversations over the past year.
“In those discussions last year and again more recently with Joe, we talked about the value of all the many honest conversations we have had on our journey,” Wolf said in his note to staff today (read it below). “I felt the moment had come to share with him that it was time for me to leave. Joe understood and supported me, asking me only to postpone any action until the reimagining of the studio was complete. Now, with our films back in theaters and a 2021 slate primed for a repeat, that time has come.”
Said Drake in his own memo, in which he called the New Orleans-headquartered Wolf “our beloved resident Southern Gentleman”: “We are grateful to Damon for sharing his talent, humor, and leadership with us,” Drake said in a memo to staff in which he said they two had been discussing the move for some time (read the memo in full below). “We will miss him, so please join me in thanking him and wishing him all the very best.”
Here’s Drake’s memo to staff that just went out:
I have some very unexpected and bittersweet news to share with you all today. Damon Wolf – our beloved resident Southern Gentleman and Chief Marketing Officer – has let me know that he has chosen to step down from his position.
Over the last year, Damon and I had conversations where he expressed the time had come for him to take on a new chapter in his life. I asked for his leadership through the reimagining process and until we were back in theaters, and he agreed. With our teams stronger than ever and with our recent films expertly launched into an ever-evolving paradigm, Damon and I recently revisited his desire to move on. He told me it was time for him to do something different, and I told him we would support him 100%.
While we may no longer see him on our daily WebEx calls or roaming the halls when we are back in the office together, Damon has left a distinctive mark on our company and his impact and legacy will be delivering dividends for years to come. He helped establish a world-class data-focused marketing team that pushed John Wick from a successful sequel into a global franchise; he also brought the studio back to the Oscars with Bombshell and Knives Out and delivered us to the top of the box office repeatedly in 2019. You all know that Damon has exceptional artistic instincts, and I think perhaps his greatest gift and talent is his ability to creatively inspire all of us – whether it’s been through working with him directly or by receiving one of his memorable opening weekend emails praising your herculean efforts to open our movies. That’s been especially true this last year as we were all struggling to figure out our new normal.
From his courtyard in New Orleans, he will continue to inspire us as the showman and trailblazing creative marketer he is, and we will hear his call to each of us to fearlessly push our own creative boundaries every day. We are grateful to Damon for sharing his talent, humor, and leadership with us. We will miss him, so please join me in thanking him and wishing him all the very best.
Here’s Wolf’s email:
To my Lionsgate colleagues.
Last fall, in a conversation with Joe about the studio’s upcoming 2021 slate, our conversation turned to an obvious place – our 2019 slate, the last time our full slate was put on display. It just so happens that this week marks one year from when we all were sent home for “just two weeks” – two weeks that we are still counting. That same week also saw the release of the final film of our fiscal year and that 2019 slate, as I Still Believe opened in theaters everywhere. It was a wild weekend trying to determine if the movie theaters could stay open through weekend. Some did and some didn’t, but one thing was certain – that weekend would define all of our lives and the world’s forever. And all of this was happening just three weeks after the Academy Awards, a ceremony that saw two films from that 2019 Lionsgate film slate stand proudly in consideration.
It’s an honor that will be hard to replace: to lead a marketing and distribution team, in collaboration with every division of the MPG and some of the world’s most remarkable and talented filmmakers, to solidify John Wick as a global phenom, to launch another homegrown franchise with Knives Out, In a year in which 3 of our films opened to #1 and the studio returned to the Oscars with Bombshell and Knives Out, I will never forget the feeling of support from a team of that took a chance on my crazy ride. I have no doubt, this studio and this team will replicate that success over and over again.
In those discussions last year and again more recently with Joe, we talked about the value of all the many honest conversations we have had on our journey. I felt the moment had come to share with him that it was time for me to leave. Joe understood and supported me, asking me only to postpone any action until the reimagining of the studio was complete. Now, with our films back in theaters and a 2021 slate primed for a repeat, that time has come.
In this little corner of our movie business, I’ve served in every role from agency receptionist to owning one of my own agencies to heading up two studios’ marketing divisions, with many roles in between. My passion will always be getting my hands dirty in the actual work of building or rebuilding something. I’ve been blessed to do that at two of my own companies, with Tom Rothman at Sony, and with Joe Drake at Lionsgate. Trust me when I say the only thing better than those for me is planning the next one from my courtyard in the French Quarter.
I want to thank the eternally debonair Joe Drake for putting his trust in me, to Felt and Michael and the Board for your trust in him and the belief in me. To the colleagues I served alongside proudly to this MPG, I will watch with glee what you do next. To our filmmakers, I am as wowed by your work collaborating behind the camera as I am of your work on screen, and I assure you that you are in good hands with a team of people I had the pleasure to be a part of. They will be led by The Mag 7 – six women I revere and one very necessary man… seven Magnificent executives who all took a major risk of their own by taking this crazy chance with me – and for that, I am eternally grateful.