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Limping Lion loses Levin

Exec a victim of MGM's poor box office showing

Peter Adee is in and Bob Levin is out as MGM has shuffled its film marketing toppers following the dim opening of its latest movie, “Windtalkers.”

Adee, a longtime ad executive, ankled his post as Universal’s marketing chief on May 15. MGM announced his hiring Sunday.

MGM distribution vet Erik Lomis will oversee Lion’s distrib operations. Danny Rosett — who as head of international distribution has reported to Levin — will now, like Loomis, report to chief operating officer Chris McGurk.

An industry vet who previously held marketing posts at Sony and Disney, Levin is the victim of MGM’s poor showing at the box office lately. Most recently, World War II actioner “Windtalkers” bowed to dismal results, and previous wide releases “Bandits,” “Rollerball” and “Hart’s War” all disappointed.

Levin wasn’t involved in the greenlighting of any of those under-performing pics. But the volley of misfires has done serious damage to the Santa Monica-based studio’s stock, and there’s been broad expectation of an exec exit or two.

“Recently (Levin) approached us recommending that we seek a replacement,” McGurk said. “We wish Bob nothing but the best for the future.”

Adee took his first studio gig at U almost two years ago. Interestingly, after his departure Adee’s duties at U were divided between two execs, and it was rumored that one of them — U vet Adam Fogelson — was elevated to keep him from moving to the Lion. It’s believed Levin was wooing Fogelson for a top creative advertising berth eventually filled by MGM’s hire of former New Line exec Steve Miller.

While at U, Adee oversaw the marketing of “American Pie 2,” “Jurassic Park 3,” “The Mummy Returns” and other hits.

“Peter is a highly respected marketing talent whose impeccable instincts and tremendous creative zeal have resulted in a brilliant run of box-office successes,” McGurk said.

It remains to be seen whether Lion’s exec shuffle can help stabilize studio’s wobbly share price. Stock, which fell 42¢, or 3.5%, to a historic low of $11.70 Friday, has shed nearly a quarter of its value since the June 14 opening of “Windtalkers.”

Next up on MGM’s wide release slate is “The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course,” a modestly budgeted film inspired by the popular cable-TV program.

But the biggest immediate challenge for Adee will be early efforts to prepare for the Thanksgiving opening of the next James Bond film, “Die Another Day.”

Though on the one hand a seeming sure-fire hit given the 007 franchise’s enviable B.O. track record, Lion will be particularly eager to exploit “Another Day” to its full potential after studio’s recent poor run of releases. Just last week, Levin and MGM Pictures prexy Michael Nathanson traveled to Cinema Expo in Amsterdam to support “Day” topliner Pierce Brosnan, who was feted as international star of the year.

“Windtalkers,” with a negative cost believed to run between $115 million-$120 million, is expected to lose tens of millions of dollars for MGM despite the sale of some foreign rights to lower Lion’s exposure to about $80 million. Through Sunday, pic has grossed an estimated $33.3 million domestically.

“I am thrilled to be joining MGM,” Adee said. “I look forward to be a part of the marketing team and to supporting MGM’s compelling and diverse film slate.”

United Artists topper Bingham Ray will continue to oversee marketing and distrib details in Lion’s specialty division.

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