Jim Gianopulos to Run Paramount Pictures for Viacom

Jim Gianopulos - Publicity - P 2017
Courtesy of Viacom

He will arrive as chairman and CEO less than a year after exiting 20th Century Fox film.

Jim Gianopulos is back in the Hollywood studio fold.

Gianopulos is set to run Paramount Pictures as chairman and CEO, tasked by parent company Viacom with righting the struggling studio following the recent departure of longtime Paramount chief Brad Grey. He will step into the new post on April 3, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish announced Monday in an email to Viacom employees.

Gianopulos will arrive on the Melrose lot less than a year after exiting 20th Century Fox Film, which he chaired for 16 years before Stacey Snider was named his successor by Lachlan and James Murdoch. When leaving Fox, the widely respected executive made it clear he wasn't ready to retire and began to entertain a host of options. He held talks to run Wanda's Legendary Entertainment and had some conversations regarding the top job at Sony Pictures as well. 

In announcing Gianopulos' appointment, Bakish, to whom Gianopulos will report, said, "Jim is a hugely talented executive, with strategic vision, strong business expertise and deep industry and creative relationships that are second to none. In his new role, he'll have direct oversight over Paramount's film and television operations worldwide, including production, marketing and distribution. And, importantly, he'll be charged with setting a new strategic direction for Paramount, focusing on bringing fresh, story-driven content — including properties from Viacom's flagship brands — to audiences, and expanding the studio's global footprint."

In a statement, Gianopulos said the new job offered "a strong opportunity to position the studio for success by creating valuable franchise opportunities, developing fresh creative ventures, and mining Viacom's deep brand portfolio to bring exciting new narratives to life."

One question on the minds of many in the industry is whom Gianopulos will choose to run production. He may retain current Paramount Motion Picture Group president Marc Evans, who has the support of such talent as filmmaker Alexander Payne and Tom Cruise, or seek an outside choice.

When Grey left Paramount, Gianopulos seemed an obvious candidate to take the helm, but sources said he wouldn't be interested in the job if it meant having to forgo the autonomy traditionally afforded studio heads.

After some negotiation, Bakish and the board offered Gianopulos greenlight authority for films with budgets up to about $100 million or perhaps more, ensuring that he can operate without committee oversight except on the most expensive movies. Most film studio heads would consult with their bosses on expensive films as a matter of routine.

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 on to run Netflix’s film operations, and Michael De Luca, who withdrew his name from consideration.

Gianopulos — who actually began his career at Paramount — spent a total of 26 years at Fox, where he rose up through the international side. The exec understands all operational aspects of running a studio, including marketing, distribution and production.

Gianopulos isn't the first ousted film studio chief to find himself running a former rival. In 2012, Alan Horn was named chairman of Walt Disney Studios at age 69, a year after being fired as president-COO of Warner Bros. Today, Horn runs the most successful major studio in town.

Gianopulos boasts close relationships with a cadre of filmmakers, most notably James Cameron, who made both Avatar and Titanic (with Paramount) for Fox and is at work on four Avatar sequels for Fox.

March 27, 11:55 a.m.: Updated to include statements from Bakish and Gianopulos.