Moonves, Press Lead ‘Course Correction’ for CBS Films

CBS chief working closely with former DreamWorks marketing head to right new division

In the wake of two lackluster initial releases, CBS Films is undergoing a “course correction,” with marketing veteran Terry Press stepping into a leading consultant role at the company and CBS chief Les Moonves taking a more hands-on position, officials close to the studio told TheWrap.

Press, who has been an independent consultant since leaving DreamWorks in 2007, has been living cheek by jowl with CBS Films CEO Amy Baer, helping retool the fledgling studios’ marketing and movie choices.

And executives acknowledged that Moonves, who has long yearned to have a successful movie studio as part of his empire, is spending more time overseeing decisions.

"It's more of a course correction than a radical change," said one executive at the company who declined to be named. "Les isn't second-guessing anybody, and I don't think he's planning any changes on the production side … I just think he's more focused on (the new division) because it fumbled out of the gate."

That it did. CBS Films endured a decidedly inauspicious debut in January, with medical-researcher-themed drama “Extraordinary Measures” starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Frasier grossing just $14.9 million on a $31 million production spend.

Around that same time, with TV spots for CBS Films’ next project, Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy “The Back-Up Plan,” failing to move the needle, Press was brought in to re-jigger the marketing campaign, among other tasks.

Executives say "Back-Up Plan" will ultimately break even or make a small profit.

There is apparently no plan to replace Baer, who has greenlight authority, but reviews all major decisions with Moonves.

Press is known as a take-no-prisoners movie executive who does not spare criticism inside or outside her circle.  She has never run a movie studio, but as Jeffrey Katzengerg’s top lieutenant led marketing at DreamWorks before setting out on her own.

Moonves and Press declined to talk to TheWrap about the changes at CBS.

One of the corrections is a move away from softer, female-centric themes that defined the first two films.

CBS Films has only one film remaining on the 2010 calendar,  a more muscular release — “Faster” (pictured below) starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton, which is slated for November.

With the division's budgetary mandate remaining in the $50 million-and-below realm, action and comedy genre films are getting most of the development heat these days, according to one executive. One off those projects is the action-oriented “Consent to Kill,” an adaptation of Vince Flynn’s popular Mitch Rapp novel series, set to be directed by Antoine Fuqua.

Also generating heat: the comedy “Last Vegas,” a kind of older “Hangover” from filmmaker Dan Fogelman; action-comedy “My Spy” from producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura; and space thriller “Station” from
writer Jeff Vintar (“I, Robot”).

"Back-Up Plan," meanwhile, is concluding a respectable run, with the $35 million film now exceeding $75 million in worldwide box office.

Last month, CBS Films pushed its only summer release, the young-female-targeted “Beastly,” back to March 2011, which allowed it to avoid competition from Universal Zac Efron movie “Charlie St. Cloud.”