Panavision’s focus on Beitcher as prexy

Exec looks first to ensure healthy camera, accessories biz

Hollywood cameramaker Panavision named Technicolor exec Robert Beitcher as its new president, reporting to company chairman Ronald O. Perelman, who will keep the CEO job for himself.

Beitcher has been prexy of the Technicolor Creative Services division for film lab Technicolor since 2000. He was previously an exec at Consolidated Film Industries, Paramount Pictures, Jim Henson Prods. and Lucasfilm in a range of roles. He takes over at Panavision on April 14.

Beitcher replaces John Farrand, who ankled the jobs of CEO and prexy in early January after 17 years running the company, which is Hollywood’s largest supplier of cameras used in movie and TV production. Farrand’s departure came after a tumultuous 2002 marked by substantial losses and a boardroom battle that erupted after Perelman tried to sell Panavision to the cosmetics and candy company he partly controls, at a price other shareholders deemed far higher than the company was worth. Ultimately, the battle ended with the sale reversed and Panavision still an independent company.

Beitcher said 2002’s tumult is now behind the company and his first job will be making sure Panavision’s core camera and accessories business is healthy.

The next step will be to look at “where the film capture/digital capture sweet spot is for the company.” Panavision received much publicity when it collaborated with Sony to develop the first 24 fps high-definition video cameras and lenses, used by George Lucas to make his most recent “Star Wars” movie. Such cameras are now being used heavily in TV production in Los Angeles but remain only about 5% of Panavision’s overall business.

Panavision also has a relatively new joint venture with film lab Deluxe called Efilm, which creates digital intermediates and other digital post-production tools. That division has been extremely successful, and Beitcher said the company needs to look at other areas of the film-production process where it can profitably expand its operations.

Expansion will be eased by Perelman’s investment of an additional $100 million in Panavision, a financial boost Beitcher said he wanted to see before coming on board.

“I wouldn’t have taken this job unless Perelman was willing to put all of his resources, not just financial ones, into supporting the company,” Beitcher said. Though Perelman will keep the CEO title, Beitcher will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the company.

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