After aggressively expanding First Look Studios over the past year and a half, Henry Winterstern has resigned as topper of the indie banner.
First Look disclosed Friday that Winterstern had departed from his posts of co-chairman and CEO, with no successor announced. The company also said Winterstern would reacquire Capital Entertainment — which Winterstern used two years ago to acquire First Look — and establish a production agreement with First Look.
First Look said Capital Entertainment also will provide strategic advice to investment organizations and media companies, including First Look.
Friday’s announcement gave no indication of what strategic direction First Look will take following a steady rise to prominence under Winterstern’s guidance.
“Henry Winterstern played a leading role in transforming First Look into an independent, fully integrated entertainment studio, and he remains the largest individual shareholder of the company,” the board of directors said in a statement. “His broad understanding of the industry and his demonstrated skill as a dealmaker and strategist will serve the future clients of Capital Entertainment well, and we are pleased that he will continue to be a resource to First Look.”
First Look’s board consists of Chris Cooney, Mitch Goldstein and Chas Phillips.
During the summer of 2005, Winterstern began First Look’s expansion by acquiring the foreign sales entity and merging it with his Capital Entertainment banner. He subsequently added distribution, and hired former Paramount Classics co-prexy Ruth Vitale to run First Look Pictures and former Miramax international sales vet Stuart Ford to launch a foreign sales arm.
First Look also closed a three-year, $80 million credit line with Merrill Lynch & Co. last summer to enable the company to up its number of films. Winterstern said at the time First Look would release 10 films theatrically in 2007 in a combination of platform and wide releases.
Under Winterstern, First Look completed several acquisitions, combining the First Look Media, Capital Entertainment, DEJ Prods. and Ventura Distribution labels.
First Look was in exclusive talks earlier this year to acquire Avi Lerner’s Nu Image/Millennium Films in a move to bulk up its library and bolster its production capability. It’s uncertain whether Winterstern’s departure will prevent that deal from going through.
First Look has a relatively small slate of films it produces. Current productions include “Phantom Biker” and Sundance entries “Smiley Face” and “An American Crime.”
First Look also partnered with the Weinstein Co. to jointly acquire worldwide rights to Plum Pictures’ romantic comedy “Dedication,” which made its debut at Sundance this year.