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Lionsgate and Summit Finally Merge Marketing Operations

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by Anne Thompson
April 17, 2014 5:26 PM
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'Divergent'
'Divergent'

Inevitably, the long-planned merger of Lionsgate and Summit's marketing operations is finally coming to pass.

It's remarkable, actually, how much the Summit label has endured since Lionsgate acquired Summit and its co-chiefs, Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, who run the Lionsgate motion picture group and brought in Erik Feig to run production. They also kept going a parallel Summit marketing division headed by studio veteran Nancy Kirkpatrick, who worked with Friedman at Warner Bros. and Paramount, to handle that label's films, including the hugely successful final "Twilight" film and would-be franchises "Ender's Game," which disappointed, and $85-million "Divergent," which did modestly ($127 million domestic) but already has three sequels in the pipeline. With marketing costs factored in, that's not a great number. 

Lionsgate's Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman, on the Cannes Croisette
Lionsgate's Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman, on the Cannes Croisette

Sometimes it serves corporate executives well to sacrifice a marketing exec when a venture disappoints. With $50 million in the foreign till so far, a $177 million cumulative worldwide gross for a supposed franchise is not the expected outcome. Following the rushed "Twilight" timeline may not have worked out in this case, where the book was smaller and the brand less established. 

When I wrote about "Divergent," producer Lucy Fisher thanked Kirkpatrick for her support on the film. "Summit said 'yes,'" said Fisher. "They knew this audience better, very well. After it got bought by Lionsgate, they both knew this audience. That's a big resource for how you go about this and maximize it with publicity and the internet. It was a franchise from the beginning, which was odd, because the book was not yet big....They got behind it and greenlit it very fast off the first draft and put it in the pipeline fast. We were lucky to have that marketing  team, between "Hunger Games" and "Twilight" Lionsgate are the biggest experts in the world on this audience. We were lucky to be tied in with those movies, mailing lists, email addresses, handing out books at the premiere, putting the trailer on "Hunger Games." That was a great thing for us."

'Hunger Games'
Lionsgate 'Hunger Games'

Now that Lionsgate and Summit are finally merging their marketing divisions into one entity--which was always the plan--Kirkpatrick, Summit's six-year president of worldwide marketing, will resign at the end of the month. Expanding his responsibilities is Lionsgate’s chief marketing officer Tim Palen, who can claim marketing credit for the "Hunger Games" success--which would have been hard to mess up. He will not only run marketing of the Lionsgate and the Hispanic label Pantelion Films, but will take over the Summit slate and oversee merchandising, theme park attractions and other franchise business opportunities.

Stated Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairs Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger: 

“Now was the right time to take the next step in integrating the marketing departments of our Lionsgate and Summit film labels as we continue to achieve significant operational synergies following the acquisition of Summit Entertainment two years ago. Under the leadership of our innovative Chief Marketing Officer Tim Palen, we will continue to develop fresh marketing strategies that strengthen our brand, cultivate new film properties and leverage our existing franchises into exciting new businesses.”

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