Pavone tops WWE film, TV division

Exec named executive VP of WWE Studios

World Wrestling Entertainment has a new ringleader to run its film and scripted TV division.

Michael Pavone will take over as executive VP of WWE Studios, replacing Michael Lake, who is ankling to pursue other opportunities.

The executive shuffle comes just months after the WWE-produced actioner “12 Rounds” struggled to pin down coin at the box office during its run beginning late March, despite getting a major push across WWE’s various platforms.

The Renny Harlin-helmed pic was produced for $24 million and earned $15 million worldwide. It could still recoup the rest when it bows on DVD later this month.

Pavone will head up WWE Studios’ slate of theatrical releases and direct-to-DVD movies, as well as the company’s expansion into scripted and reality TV programming.

He reports to company chairman Vince McMahon, who has said while WWE will continue to produce films for theatrical release, the budgets are likely to come down in order to recoup costs quicker and generate more of a profit going forward.

Steve Barnett will continue to serve as senior VP of production.

WWE Studios will also continue to distrib its pics through 20th Century Fox. Studio is taking over the deal now that its genre arm Fox Atomic, which initially paired up with the wrestling org, has been shuttered.

An action comedy starring John Cena is close to moving forward as the next pic to get the greenlight.

Lake had headed up WWE Studios since late 2007. The former Village Roadshow exec led a complete overhaul of the slate of pics WWE had in development, looking to produce pics that could feature the company’s grapplers in plots that appeal to the company’s hardcore fans as well as auds who don’t watch its weekly wrestling shows.

McMahon has long seen films and scripted TV shows as a way to cross over his cast of wrestlers to the masses, while also producing a potentially lucrative revenue generator for WWE’s bottomline.

The company has yet to produce a breakout hit, however. Previous releases like “See No Evil,” “The Marine” and “The Condemned” have collectively earned $49 million worldwide.

“The Marine 2” bows in late December as a direct-to-DVD release.

The role at WWE Studios expands Pavone’s relationship with WWE, where he’d been serving as a creative consultant to the writers of the company’s shows “Monday Night Raw” on USA Network and “Friday Night SmackDown” on MyNetworkTV since last year.  

His credits mainly include TV — which should fit in well with WWE Studios’ expansion into scripted series — having written, directed and executive produced episodes of Fox’s “Prison Break,” CBS’ “The Client” and the WB’s “Jack and Jill.” He also exec produced Steven Spielberg’s short-lived drama series “High Incident.”

“Mike brings a great combination of both filmed entertainment and television experience to his new role,” McMahon said in a statement. “We are confident that he can expand the breadth and depth of opportunities for WWE Studios.”

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