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Negotiations with former Fox chief Jim Gianopulos to take over the helm at Paramount Pictures are moving closer to resolution as Viacom is prepared to offer him the kind of greenlighting authority and control that it initially was reluctant to bestow upon whoever was chosen to succeed Brad Grey, who exited the studio as chairman and CEO last month.
According to sources, after some back-and-forth, Viacom is now offering Gianopulos greenlight authority for films with budgets up to about $100 million or perhaps more, ensuring that he can operate without a greenlight committee except for the most expensive movies.
Gianopulos also has negotiated for the right to select his own second-in-command. At one point, Viacom had moved to hire Scott Stuber, who instead went to run Netflix’s film operations, and Michael De Luca, who withdrew his name from consideration. Among those who have been mentioned for that job are Mary Parent, who currently heads worldwide production at Legendary, though a candidate could also come from within the studio.
A rep for Viacom was not immediately available for comment, and Gianopulos declined comment.
It’s been two weeks since Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, speaking at an investor conference, said that Paramount would have a new leadership team in the “very near future,” and during that time, as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Viacom has been actively courting Gianopulos to take over the helm of the struggling studio and the negotiations could be concluded as early as this week.
Gianopulos also is believed to have been in conversations with Sony, which is looking for a successor for former CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment Michael Lynton, as well as with Wanda about heading up Legendary Entertainment, which Thomas Tull exited in January.
But the Sony discussions appear to have been proceeding at a leisurely pace, and others like former Disney COO Thomas Staggs, who had been in the mix and reportedly withdrew his name, are said to be back in conversations there.
Gianopulos, who enjoyed a long and successful run at Fox, faces big challenges at Paramount, which currently languishes in sixth place among its rival studios in terms of 2017 domestic box-office market share.
The studio has been looking to ramp up production with the help of a $1 billion, three-year investment in its slate from the Shanghai Film Group and HuaHua Media. But although that deal was concluded in November and announced in January, so far the new partners haven’t advanced the studio the initial payments that were expected (Bakish is expected to travel to China for talks in early April). But Gianopulos is said to be confident that he can secure financing.
Bakish also wants the new studio head to adopt a new strategy, developing properties based on IP owned by other Viacom divisions such as Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and MTV. Presumably, Gianopulos has been given some control over and discretion with respect to films under those labels.
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