World Wrestling Entertainment has tapped Steve Barnett senior veep of production at WWE Films as the division ramps up a slate of pics to produce.
Barnett was most recently a senior VP at indie production shingle Titan Film Group, and senior VP of production and development at Dimension Films, where he oversaw such films as Frank Darabont’s “The Mist,” as well as the upcoming remake of horror pic “Piranha.”
Before Dimension, Barnett was exec VP of production at Mark Canton’s Atmosphere Entertainment, helping shepherd such projects as “300,” “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and George A. Romero’s “Land of the Dead.” He also exec produced Romero’s latest, “Diary of the Dead.”
Barnett also served as senior VP of production at Michael Ovitz’s Artists Production Group.
The strength of WWE’s brand encouraged him to make the move to the company.
“There are very few entertainment companies in the world that can market their brand as effectively as WWE,” Barnett said. “I am very excited in developing and producing films and television for a company with that kind of focus and potency.”
Barnett comes to WWE Films as the production arm is in the midst of overhauling the types of films, direct-to-homevid titles and scripted TV shows it will produce starring its stable of performers.
Idea is to produce a slate of PG-13 pics, budgeted at around $20 million each for theatrical releases that range across all genres, rather than solely action or horror pics that go after a hard R rating, like its previous releases.
Company is currently lensing its fourth pic, “12 Rounds,” a New Orleans-set actioner starring John Cena.
“If we do our jobs right, we’ll make movies that appeal to all audiences,” Barnett said.
WWE Films produced three pics — “See No Evil,” “The Marine” and “The Condemned” — before hiring former Village Roadshow exec Michael Lake late last year to take the reins and educate the biz on what types of films the company is looking to make.
“What we’re saying is, don’t make any assumptions about anything,” said Barnett, who reports to Lake.
As part of its revamped movie efforts, WWE Films brokered in February a first-look deal with Fox Filmed Entertainment, through which the company’s pics will be distributed. “12 Rounds” will be released under the Fox Atomic label.