Twenty is plenty for Par

Studio streamlines '09 film slate in wake of DreamWorks departure

The development and distribution ground continues to shift in the aftermath of the Paramount- DreamWorks split.

Paramount has taken the opportunity of DreamWorks' departure to announce a slimmer feature production slate, aiming to release 20 films annually.

Additionally, former DW production chief Adam Goodman has accepted Paramount's offer to stay aboard and shepherd films originally developed at DreamWorks that Paramount hopes to push forward. Goodman will become president of production and handle non-DW Paramount projects as well.

He will report to Paramount Film Group president John Lesher on creative issues and to vice chairman of Paramount Pictures Rob Moore on business issues.

Current production president Brad Weston will retain his title, staff and projects. Weston and Goodman, who now have the same title and status, will work with their respective staffs to develop material for the studio and its MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies labels.

All told, Paramount plans to release 12 homegrown films, including those under the MTV and Nickelodeon banners, plus four from Paramount Vantage and as many as four more from DreamWorks Animation and Marvel Studios. Of the in-house dozen, some could end up as co-financed productions with the new DreamWorks as stipulated by the two studios' separation agreement.

Paramount's decision to decrease its feature output reflects an ongoing industry trend as slates shrink because of shuttered specialty divisions, a glutted feature market, the aftereffects of labor unrest and a faltering global economy. In June, the company downsized and restructured Paramount Vantage, merging its marketing, distribution and physical production departments with Paramount's.

The slate reduction and DW departure will save the studio roughly $50 million a year in overhead, while the Vantage movements saved another $10 million annually. Paramount execs said no new staff cuts or trims are expected for the foreseeable future.

"We at Paramount are taking steps to ensure our business and creative plans are sound and viable for the long term," Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey said. "Today's changes leverage the improvements we have already made and update our output in alignment with our global ambitions. We have a strong team and structure in place, we have right-sized our overhead, and we have established a slate volume that balances our financial goals with our creative objectives. I am confident we can continue to meet our long-term financial targets and offer a strong and diverse slate of films."

Meanwhile, like schoolkids picking kickball teams, DW and Paramount have selected those projects earmarked for one studio or the other during the divorce agreement. In the arrangement, the new DW takes control of 15-20 projects that Paramount will have the option to co-finance and vice versa.

In either scenario, the point studio would present a completed film package, with talent and budget, and the other studio would decide whether to throw in financially. But in either case, Paramount would have its choice of domestic or international distribution, with DW taking the other.

Additionally, DW principal Steven Spielberg will remain as a producer on four films that Paramount will retain 100% control over, including "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "When Worlds Collide."

Of the remaining 160 or so DW-developed projects, Paramount has identified about 100 that it plans to continue actively developing.

With Goodman overseeing the DW-developed projects left behind at Paramount, Spielberg is confident they will be in good hands. "Adam Goodman has been the driving force in developing our slate of films," he said. "They represent his instincts for both the popcorn film and the prestige film, always with an eye on the competitive marketplace and the budgets involved. (DW principal) Stacey (Snider) and I are so pleased that he will be shepherding our films at Paramount."(partialdiff)
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