Encore Group ups Leighton to prexy

Boss cites exec's output

NEW YORK — The Encore Entertainment Group, which hired HBO veteran Bob Leighton a year ago as senior VP of programming, has promoted him to president.

Leighton’s boss Mark Bauman, president of the Encore Media Group, said, “We gave Bob Leighton a challenge: to get closer to the production community and do deals both for original movies and for theatrical outputs.”

As a measure of Leighton’s success, Bauman cites the output deals with October Films, Destination Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films in the last year, and the purchase of a number of world-premiere movies that were made as theatricals “but didn’t get the P&A” to open first in the multiplexes, as Bauman put it.

Bauman said that, under Leighton, Starz! plans to buy or commission about 12 world premieres a year.

Starz! still has a few years left on its existing theatrical-output deals, including Universal, New Line, Imagine and three Disney distribution companies — Touchstone, Hollywood and Miramax.

Turner Broadcasting’s New Line is the only one of these companies that Starz! will definitely lose when the contract runs out. The reason: Since the time Starz! did its output deal with New Line in 1994, Time Warner took over New Line as TW merged with Turner Broadcasting. Time Warner also owns HBO, which will get New Line’s movies starting in 2005.