Cineplex to cut more than 100

As few as a dozen may remain by year-end

TORONTO — Only about a dozen Cineplex Odeon corporate executives are expected to remain at the company by year’s end, as the Toronto-based circuit continues to lay off staffers in anticipation of its impending merger with Sony’s Loews Theaters.

About 100 employees, in both the U.S. and Canada, have been pinkslipped or voluntarily accepted severance packages at the theater chain, according to sources. Most will leave by the end of June, though a few will stay on through December.

Meanwhile two outgoing execs, chief financial officer Stephen Brown and chief operating officer Ellis Jacob, are leading a bid for 25 Chicago and New York cinemas the combined company has been required by federal regulators to sell off.

Their offer for the high-profile complexes is reportedly in the vicinity of $70 million.

The cuts go much deeper than the 62 layoffs reported last month: At least seven of the company’s nine top execs are leaving as a result of the merger. Divisions affected include operations, communications, film, advertising, publicity/promotion and accounting.

The future for Canadian distribution arm Cineplex Films also looks dubious, according to sources.

Current president and CEO Allan Karp is one of only a handful of execs who will remain at the company’s Toronto headquarters. He will stay on as head of the Canadian corporation, adding chairman to his title.

The corporate head office of the merged company, called Loews Cineplex Entertainment, will be located in New York, making the Canadian executives’ jobs redundant, according to Lichtman.

Lichtman, senior VP, marketing and communications, confirmed that he himself is leaving, along with a group of other Toronto-based executives including Irwin Cohen, exec VP, North American operations; Michael Herman, exec VP and chief operating officer; Robert Tokio, exec VP; Brown, and, as previously announced, Michael McCartney, senior VP and head film buyer for North America.

In the U.S., only about a half-dozen Cineplex execs have avoided the ax.

While industry analysts have been expecting layoffs since the merger was announced last September, the severity of the cuts caught many Cineplex employees by surprise.

“This whole thing always was sold to the employees as a positive thing,” said one industry insider. “It was supposed be an opportunity with a new and vibrant corporate entity.”

But the events of the last two weeks have left many people at the circuit stunned, added the source. “It was sold as a merger, but it seems quite evident that no one was laid off at Sony.”

Cineplex’s Canadian operations will have a separate board from its U.S. parent, and will be headed by the following: former VP of business affairs and planning James Vassos will become senior VP and CFO, Michael Kennedy will remain senior VP of film; and Marci Davies will add senior to her title of VP marketing and communications.

Dan McGrath will add senior to his title of VP, operations; former senior VP of real estate development Sam DiMichele will become senior VP of real estate and construction; and Joe Crotty will maintain his position as senior VP, international.

Leo Kolber, Cineplex Odeon’s director and chairman of the board will serve as a new director of the new corporation.