Executive Firings: What's Behind Hollywood's Season of the Witch Hunt (Analysis)

 Illustration by: Jacob Thomas

THR's studio-by-studio breakdown reveals surprising new details of the movie business' biggest executive upheaval in years -- Sony's hunt for money, will Jeff Robinov finally land at Fox? -- and the politics of the shake-ups.


Is Robinov, finally free of Warner Bros., about to join 20th Century Fox? It's been a year since Rothman exited the studio where he and Jim Gianopulos had served side by side since 2000 as co-chairmen of Fox Filmed Entertainment. That left Gianopulos with sole oversight over Rupert Murdoch's movie kingdom, where his chief mandate has been to build -- and in some cases, rebuild -- talent relationships while erasing the reputation Rothman helped create that Fox is a difficult place to work. Industry speculation is that Robinov, whose filmmaker relationships run deep, could help mend those fences. (The studio won't comment, though several sources say no official negotiations are taking place.) But Gianopulos seems to be doing fine with talent on his own. Fincher, who clashed with Rothman over 1999's Fight Club, has returned to the studio to direct Gone Girl, the thriller based on the Gillian Flynn novel. Tim Burton, who last directed for Fox on 2001's Planet of the Apes, will helm Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which is scheduled for 2015.

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As a solo act, Gianopulos also helped put together the deal for George Clooney's upcoming The Monuments Men. The Sony project came close to being scrubbed because of budget concerns until Fox agreed to co-finance. Sony will now distribute domestically, while Fox handles international.

During their time together, Gianopulos is said to have chafed at the notion that Rothman made all the creative decisions. After all, Gianopulos boasted the key relationship with James Cameron, the studio's most important filmmaker, who is prepping three Avatar sequels. "Jim is not Jeff Shell or Kevin Tsujihara," says one exec. "He is not just a business guy." Gianopulos also has given more authority to the heads of the studio's various production units -- Fox's Emma Watts, Fox 2000's Elizabeth Gabler, Fox Animation's Vanessa Morrison and Fox International Productions' Sanford Panitch.

On the financing front, Gianopulos extended Fox's relationship with Arnon Milchan's New Regency. And in late 2012, he helped arrange a new $400 million co-financing deal with Chip Seelig's The Seelig Group. Gianopulos also manages Fox's relatively new distribution and marketing deal with Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation, which so far has generated a big hit (The Croods) and a big miss (Turbo).

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