Lionsgate to handle distribution of wide-release CBS films

In three-year deal, Lionsgate grabs distribution reins for up to 12 CBS Films releases

Lionsgate, the studio behind the "Hunger Games" franchise, is taking over distribution duties for wide releases from CBS Films. 

The two companies have reached a three-year distribution deal for up to 12 movies produced or acquired by CBS Films, starting next year with the release of the teen comedy "The DUFF." 

CBS Films, a division of CBS Corp., will continue to market its own major movies, while Lionsgate will oversee their release in movie theaters and in home entertainment, the companies said on Thursday. CBS will also continue to distribute its own limited releases. 

Five CBS employees will be laid off, mostly among its distribution support staff, as a result of the move, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. 

The deal will let CBS save money on distribution while taking advantage of Lionsgate's reach and sales prowess. Lionsgate will handle international sales for movies covered by the agreement, except for "The DUFF." 

“As we build our homegrown slate and expand our efforts in the acquisition space, we’re thrilled to partner with the outstanding Lionsgate team on a plan that provides the flexibility to handle these ambitions,” CBS Films President Terry Press said in a statement. 

CBS Films releases have had limited box-office success this year with "What If," starring Daniel Radcliffe, and the gay- and labor-rights drama "Pride." Its highest-ever grossing effort is last year's "Last Vegas," which took in about $64 million in the U.S. and Canada. 

This isn't the first deal between CBS Corp. and Santa Monica-based Lionsgate. In 2013, CBS bought a 50% stake in Lionsgate's TV Guide Network (TVGN) for $100 million. The two are rebranding the network under the name POP. 

"The DUFF" (short for Designated Ugly Fat Friend) stars Mae Whitman as a high school senior in an awkward social situation. The teaser trailer will appear in theaters with Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1," the first installment of the dystopian series' two-part finale. 

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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