What Amy Baer's Exit Means for CBS Films' Future

2:41 PM PST 10/06/2011 by Jay A. Fernandez, Borys Kit
Patti Perrett/CBS Films Inc.
"The Mechanic"

The president-CEO's departure four years after its launch may not matter as the studio's strong secondary players swoop up "Yemen" and "Seven Psychopaths."

Four years after its launch, CBS Films faces a crossroads. With president-CEO Amy Baer stepping down, the company has to decide whether to stick to its original mandate of producing midlevel fare.

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Chief operations officer Wolfgang Hammer, distribution chief Steven Friedlander, acquisitions head Scott Shooman and senior vp production Maria Faillace remain in the top ranks. A spokesman for CBS Films says "we are transitioning into a team-oriented structure" that forgoes a new CEO hire, but outsiders wouldn't be surprised if Hammer, a former Lionsgate exec who's been at the company since December, takes on a solo leadership role. Others, though, suggest that an outside hire with stronger creative credentials is a must.

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Baer's tenure was marked by a string of pictures like Extraordinary Measures and The Back-Up Plan that failed to impress. Acquisitions like The Mechanic didn't stir up excitement, either. CBS Films is getting more serious about acquisitions. It picked up Salmon Fishing in the Yemen in a high-profile $5 million buy in Toronto. And Hammer and Shooman appear determined to create a more filmmaker-driven home: They wrestled away the action comedy Seven Psychopaths from other suitors like Focus Features. The company also is intent on improving its marketing clout by keeping Terry Press (Gladiator) in the consultant role she took on a year ago.

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CBS Films isn't backing away from midlevel studio productions, though. It's casting the supernatural thriller 7500, being directed by The Grudge filmmaker Takashi Shimizu, and the comedy Last Vegas, co-written by Crazy, Stupid, Love scribe Dan Fogelman, and developing American Assassin, a potential action franchise by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. It's still looking to turn midsize bets into jackpots.

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