Executive Firings: What's Behind Hollywood's Season of the Witch Hunt (Analysis)
Given the upheaval everywhere else, Paramount's stability has some industry observers slightly suspicious. Chairman and CEO Brad Grey has been at the helm since 2005; Rob Moore has served as vice chairman since 2008; and Adam Goodman has been president of the film studio since 2009.
At the beginning of the year, things didn't look so good as the studio readied for a series of troubled and delayed films: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and most worrisome of all, World War Z. But Paramount has so far avoided a major flop this year. The Brad Pitt zombie movie grossed $539 million worldwide, and though the cost of reshooting the third act prevented the film from becoming a mighty profit engine, Paramount wants a sequel if it can hold the budget to about $160 million. The studio even feels Hansel and Gretel's $225 million worldwide gross justifies another go-round -- for a price.
Paramount continues to place its emphasis on sharing risk. "They're not taking any chances, and that seems to be what [Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman] wants," says a producer who's done business at the studio. In July, Paramount extended its deal with key financing partner Ellison and his Skydance Productions for four years, overcoming overtures he got from competitors. Skydance is in on major franchise plays including Mission: Impossible (a studio source says the next will soon get the go-ahead), Star Trek, World War Z, the upcoming Jack Ryan movie and two planned Terminator films. Paramount shares risk on the G.I. Joe series, Hansel and Gretel and the upcoming Hercules with MGM while Warner Bros. and Legendary are covering half of Nolan's Interstellar.
Paramount does fully finance an occasional film with a low- to mid-range budget, including Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (an insider claims a $50 million budget), two upcoming Paranormal Activity movies and the new Jackass installment, Bad Grandpa. Given the importance of the Transformers series, pretty much anything associated with filmmaker Michael Bay feels the Paramount financing love, including the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (a gamble at more than $125 million). "The problem with Transformers is Michael Bay takes so much of the profits from the movie," says one observer. Looming over the seeming calm, of course, is the possibility that 90-year-old Sumner Redstone, executive chairman of parent Viacom, will turn out to be mortal. What happens then is something of a parlor game in the industry.