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What's going to really happen to Focus Features in January?
The news that the longtime head and co-founder of Focus Features, James Schamus, was being ousted from job sent Hollywood's indie community into shock last week. It was partly because Schamus had given no clue he wanted to leave or saw an exit coming, but mostly because Film District's Peter Schlessel was announced as the new CEO as of Jan. 1. Plus, Schlessel appears to be effectively merging Film District into Focus. At one time Film District seemed to want to take the same prestige, artistic and challenging road that Focus, Fox Searchlight, Sony Classics and others have thrived on, but a year and a half ago there was a dramatic change. The studio beefed up its slate with B-movie and pseudo studio fare such as "Olympus Has Fallen," "Insidious Chapter 2," "Parker" and "Dead Man Down." It's a strange move by Universal honcho Donna Langley even if Schlessel has a reputation as a "great guy." Focus has a heritage of releasing some of the most acclaimed films of the past 12 years. Unfortunately, outside of "Drive" Schlessel has shown little interest in that business model and that has many cinephiles from coast to coast depressed and wondering what's next.