Former Lionsgate vet tops theatrical films unit
Tom Ortenberg, a 12-year vet of Lionsgate, is leaving for a comparable exec post at the Weinstein Co.
Remaining in L.A. in a newly created position as prexy of theatrical film, he will report to Bob and Harvey Weinstein and play a key role in decisions about acquisitions, marketing, distribution and publicity.
The hire is a decent-size coup for the Weinsteins, who have seen their exec ranks turn over significantly as their theatrical slate has largely struggled. The latter half of 2008 brought better news with robust B.O. for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and awards traction for “The Reader,” with five Oscar noms including picture.
It was no stunner that Ortenberg, the original L.A. employee of the formerly Canada-based Lionsgate, would be open to new opportunities. Ever since the company acquired Mandate Pictures in fall 2007 and brought Joe Drake on as co-chief operating officer, it appeared there were a lot of cooks in the film-exec kitchen.
Drake emphasized the parting was amicable. “We owe a big debt to Tom,” he said. “We just decided to go separate ways.”
Lionsgate and the Weinsteins, while staunch rivals for years in the indie/specialty sector, have also occasionally collaborated. They co-distribbed Michael Moore’s “Sicko” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” and also teamed on hot-button pics “Dogma” and “O” during the brothers’ days under Disney’s control.
“I’ve learned a lot from them and feel like I’ve forged a great working relationship with them,” Ortenberg said. “This is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Bob and Harvey invented the modern independent film business.”
Ortenberg said he was not given any specific strategic directive for the company’s film efforts, nor did he propose any. “I’m going to do what I do best,” he said.
During his career at Lionsgate, Ortenberg rose from being the sole U.S. employee to overseeing successful campaigns for the company’s defining titles, including “Crash,” the “Saw” franchise and the Tyler Perry pics.
Before Lionsgate, he spent four years at Columbia Pictures and then segued to the job of marketing and distrib prexy at Hemdale Film Corp., which produced films including “The Last Emperor” and “Platoon.”
In a joint statement, the Weinsteins said Ortenberg “has the rare combination of being a truly multitalented executive with creativity, business acumen, strong talent relationships and was a pioneering force for our friends at Lionsgate with his proven leadership skills.”
On Ortenberg’s plate upon arrival at TWC are 2009 releases including “Inglourious Basterds,” “Nine” and “Halloween” revamp sequel “H2.”