Frank Smith Named Chief Operating Officer of Walden Media
Walden Media, a division of Anschutz Film Group (AFG) and producer of such hit films as "The Chronicles of Narnia" series, "Bridge to Terabithia," "Charlotte's Web," and the "Journey to the Center of the Earth" series, has restructured in order to reinforce its position as a preeminent, multi-faceted family entertainment company with the ability to finance a slate of high-end, star-driven commercial projects telling uplifting stories for family audiences worldwide.
Frank Smith, the longtime General Counsel and head of Business Affairs, will step into the role of Chief Operating Officer and oversee all aspects of Walden's operations as the company expands its production and financing activities beyond feature film and into television and animation.
The company's expansionary initiatives are supported by a replenishable media fund, backed by AFG, which allows Walden Media to not only finance the production of feature films, television series and animated content, but also provide P&A funding and gap financing for select projects.
Working alongside Frank Smith and Walden Media President and co-founder Micheal Flaherty will be Chip Flaherty, who heads Walden Media's Publishing division, Ryan Jones, the longtime Walden finance executive who has been appointed CFO of Walden Media, and Naia Cucukov, former creative executive at Virgin Produced, who has been hired as Vice President of Development and Production for Walden.
AFG's current CEO, David Weil, will leave the company at the end of the year to pursue new opportunities.
Under the new regime, Walden Media will focus primarily on projects submitted and produced by third parties and co-finance film projects originating with studio partners or independent production companies, such as the company's two latest films, "The Giver" - a feature co-production with The Weinstein Company, starring Meryl Streep, Taylor Swift, Jeff Bridges, Alexander Skarsgård and Katie Holmes, that will hit theaters in August 2014, and "Everest" - the Universal feature starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, and John Hawkes.
With regard to Walden's financing activities, there are no set restrictions on how or where capital from the company's fund may be allocated, which allows for maximum flexibility in sourcing projects and material across all mediums and collaborating with various partners to build a diverse slate of inspiring stories for the whole family. Walden maintains a first look deal with 20th Century Fox for projects the company develops exclusively in-house but is open to partner with all distributors on any projects the company co-finances and co-produces with outside partners.
"The restructuring reflects how the industry is working today," said Frank Smith. "Now Walden can better leverage its capital in a more efficient manner, which means we can invest and collaborate on more films, and explore animation and television projects. Our initial meetings with studios, production companies, and agencies have been great, validating our approach and showing the great number of opportunities that are open to us."
In addition to "The Giver" and "Everest," Walden Media has several film projects currently in various stages of development, including "Flat Stanley," "The Berenstain Bears," "Carmen Sandiego," "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," and "Hacksaw Ridge."
About Frank Smith
Frank Smith has been with AFG since 2003 and as COO, he now oversees all aspects of AFG and Walden Media's operations including development, physical production, legal and business affairs, publishing, marketing and finance, while also continuing to work directly with The Anschutz Corporation on strategic planning and general operational issues. During his tenure with AFG, Smith has been lead counsel overseeing large budget motion picture franchise projects, co-production finance and distribution deals with major studios, as well as structuring foreign corporations for multijurisdictional film production tax incentives.
About Walden Media
Walden Media creates entertainment for the whole family through successful movies, award-winning books, and acclaimed television programs. A Walden Media production celebrates a great book well told, a great life well lived, or an exploration that expands present possibilities - all while inspiring and entertaining its audience. Past award-winning films include: "The Chronicles of Narnia" series, the "Journey to the Center of the Earth" series, "Nim's Island," "Charlotte's Web," "Bridge to Terabithia," "Holes," "Amazing Grace," and the Sundance Audience Prize Winning documentary "Waiting for 'Superman.'"
More On: Universal, 20th Century Fox.