Company paves path to the big leagues

Summit Entertainment didn’t see any box office hits in its first full year as a distributor, but the true test for the company comes this fall with the Nov. 21 release of Catherine Hardwicke’s vampire pic “Twilight,” based on the hugely popular novel by Stephanie Meyer. If the film works, it could vault Summit into the big leagues. Summit jumped at the chance to release the film at Thanksgiving, when Warner Bros. surprised the industry by pushing back “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” to next summer.

Getting into the distribution game is enormously challenging, since majors still control the majority of the action. Like Overture and the refashioned MGM, Summit — a veteran of the foreign sales biz (under Patrick Wachsberger) — doesn’t want to be considered an “indie” company but a full-service studio that releases a range of product.

Summit has released four titles since Labor Day 2007 to mixed results. The most recent, 3-D toon “Fly Me to the Moon,” stumbled in its late-summer debut. Its first release, horror pic “P2,” cumed just $4 million domestically, while modern-day fairy tale “Penelope” grossed $10 million. Its biggest-grossing title was mixed-martial arts pic “Never Back Down” ($24.9 million).

“The idea of building a studio from scratch and getting up and running and releasing so much product in such a short span has met, or exceeded, all our expectations,” says Friedman, adding, “I think the market is clearly more crowded than one would have anticipated three years ago.”

Summit’s other fall release is specialty crime caper “The Brothers Bloom,” toplining Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz, and directed by Rian Johnson.

Summit also is rumored to be planning to launch a specialty division.

B.O. CUME: $44 million

TOP PIC: “Never Back Down,” $25 million

TOPPERS: Rob Friedman, co-chair/CEO; Patrick Wachsberger, co-chair/prexy; Bob Hayward, COO

UP NEXT:

“Sex Drive” (Oct. 17)

“Twilight” (Nov. 21)

“The Brothers Bloom” (Dec. 19)

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