Lionsgate Taking Over Distribution on CBS Films' Wide Releases

Jon Feltheimer
Invision for the Hollywood Reporter/AP Images

Lionsgate's Jon Feltheimer presented THR's Raising the Bar award to colleague Wayne Levin.

CBS Films will continue to self-distribute limited releases

Lionsgate is taking over distribution for all of CBS Films' wide releases in a multiyear deal beginning with CBS Films' 2015 title The DUFF.

The deal will cover up to four wide-release films annually for up to three years, Lionsgate spokesman Peter Wilkes told The Hollywood Reporter. CBS Films will continue to acquire, produce and self-distribute its own limited releases.

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CBS Films will acquire or produce films and oversee marketing, while Lionsgate will handle distribution across all media, including theatrical and home entertainment. Lionsgate, backed by its expanding global sales network, will also retain exclusive international sales rights for all titles from CBS Films, excluding The DUFF.

The teen comedy stars Mae Whitman as an honors student who realizes she is the "D.U.F.F." — the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. She then asks her jockish neighbor Wesley (Robbie Amell) to give her a social makeover so that she can ask out the object of her unrequited affections.

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The overall film pact will see Lionsgate and CBS continue a relationship that includes their partnership on TV Guide Network, now being rebranded as POP, and earlier working together on the romantic comedy Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. "Our partnership unites two companies with powerful brands, complementary strengths and similar entrepreneurial cultures in a distribution agreement that extends the terrific Lionsgate/CBS relationship," Lionsgate co-COO and motion picture group president Steve Beeks said Thursday in a statement.

"As we build our homegrown slate and expand our efforts in the acquisition space, we’re thrilled to partner with the outstanding Lionsgate team on a plan that provides the flexibility to handle these ambitions," CBS Films president Terry Press added.

Shifting wide releases to Lionsgate follows Press taking the top job at CBS Films as part of a shake-up that saw Wolfgang Hammer, the division's co-president, exit his post. The boutique label has been producing up to a half-dozen movie titles a year each in the $50 million-budget range.

Recent releases include the Daniel Radcliffe-starring romantic comedy What If, and Pride, a gay-themed British comedy. The pact with Lionsgate aims to reduce costs on the distribution front, thus leaving more coin for production.

Following the new pact, CBS Films expects to cut four to five jobs, mostly in distribution and likely support staff. Lionsgate expects to release the CBS Films wide releases with its existing team, and not add positions. Also greasing the wheels for the new film pact are longstanding ties between Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer and CBS boss Les Moonves, both part of an old-boys club of TV execs in Los Angeles.

Nov. 13, 8:23 a.m. This story has been updated to specify that Lionsgate is taking over distribution of all of CBS Films' wide releases, and with details on anticipated job cuts at CBS Films.