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New owners ax 40 staffers at Live Ent.

The ax fell at Live Entertainment Friday as the newly installed owners of the indie film company handed out pink slips to 40 of Live’s 166 staffers. The cuts, which were expected (Daily Variety, July 14), wiped out the production, acquisitions, television, music, public relations and legal departments.

While department heads had been aware of imminent layoffs for several days, the rank and file were informed only Aug. 1. “They have not been forthright,” one insider says about Live management.

In a statement, Live CEO Mark Curcio said, “The operating committee of Live Entertainment made a difficult decision to redirect company resources” by making the staff cuts. “This decision signals a move toward developing a highly focused film production strategy, while reducing and streamlining overhead functions.”

Among those pinkslipped were Steven Mangel, exec VP of business and legal affairs; Stewart Kleiner, legal VP; Steven Korn, director of music administration; Steven Lieb, manager of legal and business affairs; Yalda Tehranian, senior VP of production; Rick Mischel, senior VP production and acquisitions; Joan Weidman, VP of physical production; Lindsay Williams, director of development; and Shannon Gaulding, story editor.

David Bowers, head of publicity, was also given notice, but will stay on to guide releases of several films already in the pipeline.

Only significant reorganization

“This is the only significant reorganization that will take place,” Curcio said.

Curcio took the reins July 10 as Live’s ninth CEO in 12 years, following the buyout of Live by an investors group led by Bain Capital. Curcio was joined by co-presidents Amir Malin (formerly of October Films) and Bill Block (formerly an agent at International Creative Management). The operating committee also includes Roger Burlage, Live’s former CEO, who remains as chairman but is expected to ankle the company in the coming months.

Live’s newly reconfigured business strategy is unclear. Previous pronouncements by the new team set a goal of 10 to 15 pics per year, mixing productions and acquisitions at budget levels ranging from $5 million to $25 million. That goal would appear to be difficult for Live to achieve, minus production or acquisitions staff.

Live declined to elaborate. But its new owners have declared their intention to build the company through strategic acquisitions and mergers. Among the candidates are Trimark Pictures, Ciby 2000 and Phoenix Pictures.

One insider says he sees Live, which was founded as a homevideo distribber, acting as a financier of film properties, domestic distribber and foreign sales agent.

The only certainty at present is that the line at the unemployment center has swelled as indies such as Live and the recently merged Orion Pictures face the tough realities of a marketplace dominated by the major studios and lacking effective domestic distribution for nonstudio product.

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