CBS tops off film unit


Six months after CBS announced its move into the theatrical arena with its newly minted CBS Films, Amy Baer has been named president and CEO, charged with jump-starting the division's development and production activities.

To move the unit forward, CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves reached into the executive ranks at Sony, where Baer has been executive vp production for Columbia Pictures since 1998.

Plans call for the CBS unit to develop and produce four to six movies a year with production budgets up to $50 million per film. Baer, who reports to Moonves, will oversee all facets of the division's releases, from development, production and acquisition through distribution and marketing.

"Leslie Moonves really wants a film division that makes a wide range of films for a broad spectrum of the audience," Baer said of the division's mission. "That's historically been what I've always wanted to do. I'm a bit of a generalist. I've never specialized in one kind of movie."

By wading into the theatrical waters, CBS Films will be competing with established studios like Viacom's Paramount -- before Viacom split into CBS Inc. and Viacom in 2006, Moonves was Viacom co-president and co-CEO. But it also will face off against a rising tide of such movie companies as Overture Films and Summit Entertainment that are looking to produce midrange-budgeted movies with an eye toward cable outlets and international sales.

In the case of CBS Films, its movies will be used to fill the demand for new titles at CBS' Showtime.

At Columbia, Baer demonstrated solid commercial instincts by either developing or supervising such projects as "My Best Friend's Wedding," "The Mask of Zorro," "S.W.A.T.," "Adaptation," "Something's Gotta Give" and "The Pursuit of Happyness."

"The kind of movies I've made are the kinds of movies I'm going to make there (at CBS Films)," Baer said.

The films will be released domestically through a U.S. theatrical distribution unit to be established within CBS Films.

Bruce Tobey was hired in March as COO to plan the business and financial structure for the movie division (HR 3/8).

Tobey, who reports to Baer, will oversee business affairs, legal, finance and home video distribution.

Right now, CBS Films consists of Baer, Tobey and two assistants, who are all headquartered in West Los Angeles.

"The game plan is, barring any strikes, to have something in production within the next 12-18 months," Baer said. "We are starting from scratch so we have to start acquiring material and developing it."

Moonves said: "Amy is a gifted executive with an incredible eye for good material and a resume of success covering a wide range of critically acclaimed and commercially successful films. Equally as important in this industry, she has a strong reputation for nurturing creative talent and for serving as a passionate champion of the projects she brings in."

Before Columbia, Baer worked at sibling TriStar Pictures from 1992-97, rising through the ranks to executive vp production. She also was director of development at Guber-Peters Entertainment Co. She began her career at CAA in 1988 as an assistant to the late Jay Moloney.