Columbia exec VP new head of film unit

Leslie Moonves is making good on his promise to invest in pic production, naming Columbia Pictures exec veep Amy Baer as prexy-CEO of CBS Films.

Baer will oversee development, production, acquisition, distribution and marketing for the six-month-old unit. CBS Corp. topper Moonves said that establishing CBS’ footprint in the film biz has become a high priority for the company.

CBS Films will launch its own theatrical distribution unit to release its films domestically. Unit has a built-in pay TV outlet through its CBS Corp. sibling Showtime.

Baer, who will report to Moonves, is scheduled to begin working at CBS Films — located in UPN’s former Wilshire Boulevard HQ in West L.A. — in mid-October.

Baer said she expects to see the label’s first film hit the bigscreen in 12-16 months barring a strike. “It took something of this magnitude to go,” she said. “There aren’t many opportunities out there like this.”

“She has uncanny commercial sensibilities,” said Columbia Pictures co-president of production Matt Tolmach. “She was our romantic comedy maven.”

CBS said the division will develop and produce four to six movies a year, with production budgets up to $50 million per film. 

This venture is “very important to me,” Moonves told Daily Variety. “I met with a number of people (to fill the post), the usual suspects. I took a lot of recommendations. Amy and I just clicked. I liked her taste. I liked the movies she worked on. She got A-pluses across the board. She is universally liked and respected within the community.”

In March, Bruce Tobey joined CBS Films as chief operating officer. Tobey, who will report to Baer, has been planning the business and financial structure for the new movie division. He will oversee business affairs, legal, finance and homevideo distribution.

Baer was one of Sony’s longest-serving executives, rising to exec VP in 1998. During her time at the studio, she oversaw production on such Sony hits as “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “The Mask of Zorro,” “SWAT,” “Something’s Gotta Give” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

Before Col, Baer worked at TriStar Pictures from 1992-97. She was also director of development at Guber-Peters Entertainment Co., where she helped develop “Jumanji” and “Single White Female.”

She began her career at CAA in 1988 as an assistant to the late Jay Moloney.

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