Harvey Weinstein Reacts to Exec's Move to Annapurna: "We Don't See Them as Rivals"

Exec Poaching - H 2016
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The movie mogul opens up to THR after distribution president Erik Lomis exits for Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures.

A version of this story first appeared in the April 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

There's a new chapter in the The Weinstein Co.-Annapurna Pictures rivalry.

After a five-year stint with TWC, distribution president Erik Lomis exited the cost-cutting studio March 10 to join free-spending Megan Ellison's Annapurna. Lomis' hire signals that Ellison, 30, is moving directly into TWC's space as a distributor and presumably will compete for the same Oscar-friendly projects on which Harvey Weinstein has built his business.

Adding to the blow is the fact that Weinstein, 63, is a known adversary of Ellison. The two famously feuded over Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, which Annapurna backed and Weinstein distributed, and TWC came out on the losing end to Annapurna to finance Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty.

Lomis, whose contract expires at the end of March, was said to be making a base salary of $1.5 million a year. Given that TWC has trimmed its release-schedule plans from 16 to no more than 10 films a year and continues to slash costs on the film side, it should come as no surprise that the studio and the executive parted ways. TWC sources say the company will move fast to replace Lomis and are looking at both an internal and external candidate. After all, Weinstein needs someone to handle its promising 2016 slate, which includes John Carney's Sing Street on April 15, The Founder (starring Michael Keaton as McDonald's mogul Ray Kroc) on Aug. 5, the boxing drama Hands of Stone on Aug. 26 and the Rooney Mara-Nicole Kidman tearjerker Lion in the prime awards-season slot of Nov. 25.

Lomis' defection follows a string of high-ranking TWC exits during the past 18 months. Most of them have been replaced by less-seasoned candidates internally or continue to remain open. "While I accept that some have left, look at the chronology of when they left and the strength of our films since then," Weinstein tells THR, pointing to The Imitation Game and Paddington. "We still had 10 Oscar nominations [nine for Carol and The Hateful Eight] this year, and next year's [slate] is stronger than ever."

Weinstein was quick to point out that executive changeover is neither uncommon nor catastrophic in Hollywood. He adds. "When Josh Greenstein left Paramount, they weren't paralyzed. They thrived, and Josh's done great at Sony. Fifteen agents go from CAA to UTA. They're both still doing great. Five players were traded from the [New York] Jets. They'll still have a great season. This is the business we're in — there's always competition and change. Over our company’s history, we’ve had this same story written about us every two years. And in spite of that, TWC still has a debt-free library of 525 films, a strong film business and a wildly thriving TV business."

In the past, TWC has insisted that its profit-generating Radius label would be rebooted after co-chiefs Tom Quinn and Jason Janego disembarked in the summer to launch a distribution label (the company, which still hasn't been named or revealed its backers, released its first film last month, the Michael Moore documentary Where to Invade Next). But Liza Burnett Fefferman, the sole remaining Radius exec, left right after the Oscars (she was shepherding best original song nominee Til It Happens to You). Though Weinstein is cutting costs on the film side, laying off one-quarter of its staff (about 50 people) in November, the company has bulked up its TV division — a potential sales target.

As for Ellison moving Annapurna into distribution, Weinstein says he isn't worried. "The industry tries to make this into something adversarial between us and Annapurna when it simply isn't," he adds. "Annapurna makes the films they produce, and we make the films we produce. We don't see them as rivals. There's room for everyone in the industry. Erik will always be part of the TWC family, and we wish him the best."

Annapurna confirmed Lomis' hire but declined comment.