WWE names Michael Luisi new head of studio unit

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WWE Studios, the movie production arm of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., has promoted Hollywood veteran Michael Luisi to president of the unit.

Luisi, who had been WWE’s executive vice president and general counsel, succeeds Mike Pavone, who had served as executive vice president of the WWE Studios until his abrupt resignation last month.


Before joining WWE in January, Luisi spent 12 years at Walt Disney Co.'s Miramax film label, most recently as an executive vice president of worldwide operations. He left the company in the wake of Disney’s sale of the production company to a group of investors led by Colony Capital.

Best known for its wrestling programs including the highly-rated ‘Smackdown’ and ‘Raw,’ WWE has tried for several years to carve out a place in the movie business with mixed results. Most of its films go to DVD pretty quickly, but the low production costs have kept the unit profitable, although last year it made just $400,000.

WWE released four movies this year and two last year. Luisi wants to increase WWE’s output to six to eight films annually. Besides creating movies, Luisi said he will actively seek to acquire movies for WWE to release, which is a different approach from his predecessor. Luisi, a veteran of the film festival circuit from his days at Miramax, said he is heading to the Toronto Film Festival to look for movies to buy.

Usually, the movies released by WWE feature its talent in starring roles. Going forward, Luisi said that will not always be the case. ‘The creative will dictate whether or not it makes sense to have WWE talent in the movie,’ he said.

WWE will also look to release movies on other platforms besides movie theaters. ‘Everyone is well aware that the landscape is shifting, we’re looking to create content that would potentially bypass the theatrical window,’ Luisi said.

The first movie Luisi will guide is ‘No One Lives,’ an R-rated horror film that is a co-production between Pathe Pictures and WWE Studios that he brought to the company after he joined it earlier this year.

-- Joe Flint


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