The State of the Studio Deals: Who's Doing What Where
Overstuffed studio stables mostly perished in the WGA-strike housecleaning. Now, surviving producers fight for stingier deals and fewer film slots in an environment of belt-tightening and cold creative calculation.
Active producer deals 2011: 18
Active producer deals 2003: 24
Disney has been through some uncomfortable contortions lately. Even long-standing powerhouse producer Jerry Bruckheimer has faced challenges as the company has made executive changes, brought in Marvel Studios and locked in a distribution deal with DreamWorks. Meanwhile, the studio's roster, which includes Debra Martin Chase's Martin Chase Productions and Andrew Panay's Panay Films, is fighting over a handful of live-action movie slots. David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman's Mandeville Films provides a grab bag of pictures, including this fall's Muppets rebirth. But Miles Millar and Alfred Gough's Millar Gough Ink hasn't seen a Disney green light since 2009's Hannah Montana: The Movie. New blood comes in the form of ABC Studios supplier Mark Gordon's Mark Gordon Co., which cut a first-look film deal in April.
Mandeville Films: David Hoberman & Todd Lieberman
In 2009, Mandeville supplied Disney with the impressive $317 million worldwide gross of The Proposal and the middling performance of Surrogates. After The Muppets in November, the duo has projects filming for Summit and Relativity and Here There Be Monsters set up at Warner Bros. but nothing approaching the runway at their home studio.
Junction Entertainment: Jon Turteltaub
Director Turteltaub delivered hits with the National Treasure films in 2004 and 2007, but The Sorcerer's Apprentice turned out less than magical last year. He now has Last Vegas casting for CBS Films, but only one Disney project -- a potential third National Treasure film -- napping in development.
Jerry Bruckheimer FIlms: Jerry Bruckheimer
The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film triumphed, but the run-up to it -- Confessions of a Shopaholic, G-Force, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Apprentice -- failed to reach blockbuster status, forcing the mega-producer into an atypical public wrestling match with the studio to get The Lone Ranger greenlighted.
Active producer deals 2011: 5
Active producer deals 2003: 22
Just before it left Paramount three years ago, DreamWorks still had a dozen deals in place that included pacts with Ira Glass, Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller's Red Hour Films. Since rebuilding as an independent, the studio's deals are few but targeted: director John Hamburg for comedy, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci's K/O Paper Products for action/sci-fi tentpoles and screenwriter Steven Zaillian's Film Rites for smaller dramas. But because DW makes so few movies, many in its stable go elsewhere (Zaillian has Moneyball and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at Sony). Steven Spielberg favorites Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall's Kennedy/Marshall Co., which is producing the director's War Horse and Lincoln for DW, just nabbed a first-look deal.
MacDonald/Parkes Productions: Laurie MacDonald & Walter F. Parkes
The longtime DreamWorks producers (The Ring, Catch Me If You Can) lined up $10 million in financing from Imagenation Abu Dhabi two years ago and have been using it to buy and develop their own projects. Dinner for Schmucks underperformed in 2010, and films such as Motorcade and The Trial of the Chicago 7 have been gestating at the studio for years without forward movement. But the awards-bait drama Flight, which Robert Zemeckis is directing with Denzel Washington in the lead role, has just gone before cameras.
K/O Paper Products: Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci
The writer-producers are frequent Spielberg collaborators who had a rare stumble with Cowboys & Aliens this summer. They go small for the first time with Kurtzman's directorial debut, Welcome to People, which is wrapped but awaiting a release date. After that, the pair has half a dozen big-budget projects -- including Racing Dreams, Deep Sea Cowboys and The Defenders -- at the studio waiting for the go-ahead from CEO Stacey Snider, but their deal is up at the end of the year.
20TH CENTURY FOX
Active producer deals 2011: 20
Active producer deals 2003: 26
The quantity of deals hasn't changed much at Fox since the heyday of first-look pacts a decade ago. But the studio -- which includes Fox 2000, Fox Searchlight and Fox Animation -- has consummated two key deals in the past two years, with Peter Chernin's Chernin Entertainment and screenwriter Simon Kinberg's Genre Films. James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment and its Avatar juggernaut are more important to the studio than ever, director Shawn Levy's 21 Laps Entertainment continues to grow in its sixth year, and Ridley and Tony Scott's Scott Free Productions provides a mix of fare. Walden Media and Davis Entertainment are healthy mainstays, and New Regency remains a major co-financing partner. Searchlight's deals with Danny Boyle's Decibel Films and Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor's Ad Hominem Enterprises provide potential awards-season fodder.
Chernin Entertainment: Peter Chernin
The former News Corp. COO came out of the gate strong this summer with franchise reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its $438 million worldwide gross after segueing into his producer position in 2009. His Billy Crystal comedy Parental Guidance is next for Fox, but Chernin also is producing the big-budget Joseph Kosinski-directed sci-fi epic Horizons for Universal.
Lightstorm Entertainment: James Cameron
Avatar contributed $2.78 billion in gross revenue to Fox's coffers in 2009 and 2010; it was the first picture the company had delivered to the studio since Solaris in 2002. And while Lightstorm has other projects in the works, including a big-budget remake of Fantastic Voyage, the forthcoming Avatar sequels are what really matter.
21 Laps Entertainment: Shawn Levy
Levy's outfit has been a hit machine for the studio (minus The Rocker) since Night at the Museum in 2006, with more than $1.3 billion in global grosses generated so far. The ensemble sci-fi comedy Neighborhood Watch is filming for a summer release, and the Museum franchise could always be extended.
Active producer deals 2011: 12
Active producer deals 2003: 22
In the past decade, Paramount has shed producers like it's on a crash diet. But if anything, its stable is stronger. Such heavy hitters as Cruise/Wagner Productions and Gary Sanchez Productions were let go along the way, but the studio now boasts a mix of such old-school mainstays as Lorenzo di Bonaventura's Di Bonaventura Pictures and Lorne Michaels and John Goldwyn's Michaels Goldwyn Co. and newer reliables such as J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk's Bad Robot, Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes and Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock's Montecito Picture Co. With Mary Parent's Disruption Entertainment and Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage's Fake Empire recently added to the roster, the studio looks well situated to cover its bases with filmmaker deals and traditional producers. But really, is there a reason Robert Evans still has a deal here?
Bad Robot: J.J. Abrams & Bryan Burk
Abrams and company joined the studio in 2006, and Paramount CEO Brad Grey made the easiest decision of his career by re-upping the shingle's deal through 2013. Aside from the underwhelming performance of Morning Glory in 2010, Bad Robot has turned out successes Cloverfield, the Star Trek reboot and Super 8, totaling $875 million in worldwide grosses. Next are Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol and a Trek sequel.
Skydance Productions: David Ellison
Ellison brought $350 million to the table last year to co-finance films as part of his four-year deal with the studio, which is up in late 2013, and he's putting it to good use: The tentpoles M:I -- Ghost Protocol, World War Z and G.I. Joe 2 are making their way to theaters.
Plan B Entertainment: Brad Pitt
Since coming over from Warner Bros. in 2005, Pitt has barely made a film for the studio where he has an overall deal (A Mighty Heart was last produced for Paramount Vantage in 2007). Among a dozen projects set up there, only World War Z is in front of cameras.