WWE changes film strategy

Will self-distribute, wrestlers to support well-known lead actors

NEW YORK -- World Wrestling Entertainment is changing its film strategy, with WWE Studios announcing Tuesday that it will use its superstars to support Hollywood leads and self-distribute and market an upcoming slate of nine films with Samuel Goldwyn Films and Vivendi as partners.

On past film releases, WWE worked with Fox and Lionsgate as distribution partners.

The sports entertainment powerhouse on Tuesday also pushed back the release of comedy "Knucklehead" to the fall.

Importantly, it said its upcoming films will feature well-known actors and actresses in lead roles supported by WWE superstars. In the past, the wrestlers generally took the lead.

In another strategic tweak, upcoming projects will feature a broader range of genres, including family-friendly comedies, dramas and thrillers. Past WWE films generally were in the action and horror genres.

WWE said it plans to produce and sel-frelease nine films through 2012.

The new strategy was put in place by chairman Vince McMahon and Mike Pavone, who took over as executive vp, WWE Studios last summer after several previous film heads came and went.

WWE launched its film efforts in 2002 with expectations that it could drive its loyal fans to movie theaters, but it has been widely seen as struggling to find the winning formula.

"The self-distribution model will allow WWE to maximize marketing efforts and create special event experiences at select theatres nationwide," Pavone said Tuesday.

The new strategy will kick off with the summer release of a family drama with the working title "Brother's Keeper" starring Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover and WWE superstar John Cena. It will be WWE's seventh film.

WWE will follow that up with the fall release of comedy "Knucklehead" with Mark Feuerstein, Melora Hardin and wrestler "Big Show" Paul Wight. The film, originally slated for this spring, follows the adventures of a fight promoter (Feuerstein) deeply in debt to a crooked rival and his new fighter (Wight).

Samuel Goldwyn Films will be WWE Studios' theatrical distribution partner in the U.S. Vivendi Entertainment will be WWE Studios' domestic DVD distribution partner.
International DVD distribution will be handled by existing TV and video partners worldwide.
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