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UNIVERSAL SHAKEUP: Adam Fogelson Out, Donna Langley Sideways, Jeff Shell In, And Ron Meyer Up As Studio Taken By Surprise
By Mike Fleming Jr – BREAKING… SHOCKER! In a shocking development, Adam Fogelson will exit his post as Universal Pictures chairman, with Jeff Shell taking over Universal Studios. Ron Meyer is becoming the sole vice chairman of NBC Universal through 2017, and Donna Langley has been promoted chairman of Universal Pictures.

‘Insidious 2′ Stuns As Sept’s 2nd Biggest With $41M For Year’s 2nd Best Horror Pic; De Niro’s ‘The Family’ Forgotten For $13.9M
By Nikki Finke - No surprise that a genre scarer did so well on a weekend frontloaded by Friday The 13th… Read More »

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UNIVERSAL SHAKEUP: Adam Fogelson Out, Donna Langley Sideways, Jeff Shell In, And Ron Meyer Up As Studio Taken By Surprise

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: The studio has made this official. (See release below.)

BREAKING… SHOCKER! In a shocking development, Adam Fogelson will exit his post as Universal Pictures chairman, with Jeff Shell taking over Universal Studios. Ron Meyer is becoming the sole vice chairman of NBC Universal through 2017, and Donna Langley has been promoted chairman of Universal Pictures. Shell, who comes from the studio’s parent company Comcast, had been running Universal International. With that strong international background under his belt, he is coming to Hollywood.

Related: NBCU Taps Kevin MacLellan To Run International

To say this is a stunner is an understatement. I saw the Universal gang last night in Toronto for a drink before the premiere of the Ron Howard-directed Rush, and if he knew there was something amiss at the time, Fogelson is a world-class actor. They all headed back this morning and the change was made while they were flying. That’s when the turbulence hit.

Fogelson had the studio on a roll but his emphasis was on domestic distribution and marketing first. Given Shell’s expertise, the mandate going forward will be to emphasize a global game plan. The prospect that a Shell game was in the works, in this exact scenario, was rumored months ago, when Shell bought a house in Hollywood. But they were denied by the studio at the time. After weathering rumors that Comcast tried to get DreamWorks partner Stacey Snider to return to Universal, or that longtime chief Meyer would retire, all  the rumors died down. Fogelson, a level-headed exec who came out of marketing to take the top job and replace Marc Shmuger, seemed to be on stronger footing with Langley. After weathering a rough period including losers like Battleship, the motion picture group turned the corner last year with hits like Ted, and was doing better than a lot of other studios lately, and they are No. 2 in market share behind Warner Bros. Both of them were re-upped in late 2011 through 2014.

Related: Universal To Finish 2012 With All-Time Global Gross Record

The momentum certainly helps Langley, who has taste and strong relationships with talent, something that will help Shell as he gets going. The studio has the stability of the hit-making family film division, Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment, and a coterie of long term producing deals with the likes of Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, and Scott Stuber. They also just made an overall deal with Legendary Pictures, Thomas Tull’s financing and producing company which left Warner Bros. Read More »

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Universal’s Year-Long Turnaround Shows Cyclical Nature Of Insane Movie Business

EXCLUSIVE ANALYSIS… UPDATED THROUGHOUT: Every movie studio has its fair share of hits and misses because success is cyclical in Hollywood. What goes up must come down, eventually. (Sony Pictures is having a troubled summer now after years of successful releases. Once stable Warner Bros Pictures just went through an executive upheaval as did Fox and Disney before it. Paramount had a film drought last year. And so on.) But then a studio’s fortunes go back up. Such is the case with Universal Pictures. For the past 12 months, its filmmakers have been on a winning streak from June 2012 to now – in other words, after the release of its embarrassingly bloated bomb Battleship and before that a string of stinkers. In the last year Universal has released 14 films with 10 opening #1: Snow White And The Huntsman, Ted, The Bourne Legacy, Les Misèrables, Mama, Identity Thief, Oblivion, Fast & Furious 6The Purge, and this weekend’s Despicable Me 2 which broke records here as well as overseasNot even counting DM2‘s grosses, the studio amassed $3.2 billion at the worldwide box office which was more than in any 12-month period in Universal’s history. The slate also has been the most profitable not only for Universal (not adjusted for inflation, higher ticket prices, or 3D premium sales) but compared to every major Hollywood studio except Disney. I’ve learned that Legendary Entertainment‘s Thomas Tull could announce his selection of a new financial, distribution, marketing, and production partnership as early as this week after kicking tires all over Hollywood – and his choice is “likely” NBCUniversal. That’s a big vote of confidence for the movie side led by chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chair Donna Langley who report to Universal Studios president/CEO Ron Meyer.

“They are killing it,” emails one film financing expert I respect. “Since January of 2012, Universal has beaten Sony, Warner Bros, Paramount, and Fox on ‘cash on cash’ (TCCR) return. And if you look at their next two years, it is filled with sequels (10 in their 25 next pics) which should lead to terrific profits plus lower volatility. And they have event pictures and several brands such as Fifty Shades Of Grey and Wicked (touring in 40+ countries). It’s an amazing run. I never expected this. To be honest, I’m not their biggest fan.”

I’ve learned this short and stunning turnaround actually was the result of a plan by Universal execs to target overseas audiences who make up 70% of theatrical box office and intentionally create international franchises. “They executed well and succeeded. On Ted they got lucky. But that is what happens when you have enough at bats,” a source tells me. Now Uni wants to have potential franchise pics start in the $80M to $100M range if not a well-known brand. They’ll spend more on a sequel.

This strategy followed months of media predictions that all three studio heads would roll (separately or together) because of what was suddenly seen as deep systemic problems at the studio. Universal became the subject of speculative article after speculative article. Remember the bruising Uni brass suffered last summer when Battleship failed and rumors fanned that Comcast had courted DreamWorks partner Stacey Snider to take over?

And then in the middle of all that, the boss, Comcast EVP/NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, decided to sit in on Universal’s Monday motion picture meeting for senior Universal execs. Burke at the time only visited his film outpost about once every financial quarter (more often this summer). This Xanax moment took place while Burke was in town for a weekend wedding then atypically stayed on. It had to be made clear internally that he was not coming to fire anybody or commence layoffs. But Comcast folk are a tight-lipped bunch and the silence only added to the “where’s there smoke/there’s fire” chatter destabilizing the studio even more than any inaccurate journalist could. The fact is they didn’t know what to say. Though entertainment vets, Burke and Comcast chief Brian Roberts were “not used to the fishbowl nature coverage of the movie business. That everything which happens, true or false, gets the industry talking,” as an insider explained to me at the time.

For awhile, it looked as if Comcast would be no different than so many other corporate and private investors who came to Hollywood dreaming of big profits only to leave with empty wallets. (Remember, at one point early on during the acquisition and then regulatory period, Comcast seriously contemplated selling the film studio.) “Comcast just weren’t prepared to have movies like Ted make so much more money than anyone imagined - and then to have Battleship do so much less than planned. There’s virtually no other business around where your plans for the year in 24 hours go up and down,” a Comcast exec explained to me back then.

Fogelson self-consciously ran the meeting with Burke watching and said to staff afterwards about his Comcast overlords, “They’re genuine grownups. They’re not panicked. They want to run and  grow an extraordinary business. And as for the immediate effects of Burke’s visit, I feel completely supported as I did before.”

Of course, no one believed Adam. Instead, he and Donna and Ron ignored the public humiliation and predictions they were about to be shitcanned and kept their heads down. It didn’t help when Comcast revamped its own logo to include NBC’s famous peacock but not Universal’s spinning globe. Now things are looking up.

For the most part, Universal has achieved its turnaround Read More »

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CinemaCon: Universal’s Sequel Machine Pays Off With Exhibitors

Pete Hammond

It was Universal Pictures’ turn in the spotlight this morning as Chairman Adam Fogelson served up a look at the studio’s sequel-packed summer slate and a summary of the studio’s 2012 hits and even big miss Battleship. He announced sequels in varying stages of development: Snow White And The Huntsman (for a targeted 2015 date), Ted, Bourne Legacy, and also for 2015 another Pitch Perfect, that sleeper which earned $110 million worldwide and has become the 4th biggest digital download in history. But clearly the studio’s biggest franchise news - thinking audiences can’t get enough of a good thing – was star/producer Vin Diesel’s announcement that the cast will return for a 7th Fast & Furious with a release date already set for July 11, 2014. Marketing honcho Michael Moses told me afterwards that the 7th film will go into production with new director James Wan in August right after the cast finishes up its worldwide promotions for #6. For such a stunt driven movie, 11 months is not much time and sets it up for an imposing ‘fast and furious’ schedule. In fact these things go so down to the wire that #6 director Justin Lin couldn’t be in Vegas to join the cast (including Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez) and producer Neal H. Moritz on stage to talk up the new film for the pumped theater owners. Moritz said he’s been darting between London, Vancouver … Read More »

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Universal Pictures To Finish Year With All-Time High Film Global Gross Record

By | Thursday December 20, 2012 @ 2:32pm PST
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Remember the bruising that Universal Pictures brass received over the summer when Battleship failed and when rumors were published that Comcast had courted DreamWorks partner Stacey Snider to return? Now, Universal’s Ron Meyer, Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley have reason to take a bow. The studio, which passed the record for Universal’s domestic grosses back in October, is now on course to blow past its global record, even before Les Miserables gets released on Christmas. Grosses aren’t profits, of course, but hits like Safe House and Ted certainly have created some momentum. Here is the official release:

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA, December 20, 2012—Universal Pictures today announced that 2012 will mark its best year at the worldwide box office in the studio’s 100-year history with global theatrical grosses exceeding $2.927 billion to date. Universal broke its domestic record ($1.127 billion) in October and the studio will surpass its international record ($1.716 billion) Friday, December 21.

Read More »

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Universal Surpasses 2008 To Set Best Domestic Box Office Year Ever

By | Tuesday September 25, 2012 @ 9:53am PDT
Mike Fleming

Despite the rumors that Comcast had conversations with Stacey Snider and possibly Tom Rothman to take a top post at the studio, and despite the summer disappointment of Battleship, Universal Pictures has just set its best-ever result for North American box office with $1.128 billion. That beats the $1.127 billion set in 2008. Buoyed by hits like Ted, the studio will likely also beat its worldwide ticket sales record as well. It has four movies still to be released: Pitch Perfect, in wide release on October 5; the action-thriller The Man With The Iron Fists on November 2; Judd Apatow’s This Is 40, on December 21; and Les Misérables, on December 25. The films that Universal has released so far this year are: Contraband, Big Miracle, Safe House, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Wanderlust, American Reunion, The Five Year Engagement, Battleship, Snow White And The Huntsman, Ted, Savages and The Bourne Legacy. The studio is number four in box office share behind Warner Bros (22 films), Sony a(21) and Disney with 13 films. Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: Joel Silver Going Indie And Making 12-Film Distribution Deal With Universal For Post-Warner Bros Producing

EXCLUSIVE: Well, that didn’t take long. Six weeks after I scooped the news that Joel Silver and Warner Bros agreed to sever their 25-year relationship by the end of the year, the producer has plans to set up shop as an indie filmmaker. And just as I toldja, he’s landed at Universal. This is by no means the ful-frills first-look producing deal he’s had. I’m told that Universal was never interested in a first-look production deal with Silver. His close pal and travel buddy Ron Meyer’s daughter is an executive at Silver Pictures and, because of those relationships, Uni President/COO Meyer supposedly took himself out of the decision-making process. Instead, Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson with Co-Chairman Donna Langley did the deal. Details are still sketchy, But I hear it calls for five years of domestic distribution of product from a new division of Silver Pictures which is going to be called Silver Pictures Entertainment. The 12-film agreement which will be announced soon calls for Universal to distribute 2 to 3 films annually from Silver Pictures Entertainment across multiple genres. Universal will pay for marketing, with a backstop so that Silver is on the hook if the pics don’t earn out. I understand that Silver will have to find financing though Universal may choose to finance certain films but is under no obligation to do so. The first project under the deal will be action thriller Non-Stop which reteams directed Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson who worked on 2011′s Unknown together for Silver’s Dark Castle where Collet-Serra also helmed Orphan (2009) and House Of Wax (2005). Non-Stop is not yet in production and is slated for a 2013 release.

Related: EXCLUSIVE: Joel Silver And Warner Bros Pictures Severing 25-Year Relationship

Speaking of Dark Castle, I’ve learned that Universal is interested in distributing that product. But Dark Castle’s slate of movies remain at Warner Bros for distribution through 2013. And after that Silver can take that banner with him for distribution elsewhere or dump it. (Silver is currently embroiled in a high-profile lawsuit with Goldman Sachs over financing for Dark Castle.) Thus comes the quiet finish to one of the most long-term, big-time, noisy, up and down, and ultimately dysfunctional relationships between a film producer and a movie studio.  Read More »

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Universal Rolls Out New Footage As Travolta, Theron, Renner, Stewart Hit CinemaCon

Pete Hammond

Universal may have been the last of the seven studios participating here in Las Vegas at CinemaCon but their one-hour-and-forty-minute presentation today at Caesars Palace’s Colisseum theatre was perhaps the starriest of all. Hosted with confidence and self-deprecating humor by the studio’s chairman and 13 year U veteran  Adam Fogelson, the exec made good use of Universal Footage Cineconhis background as the studio’s former marketing head to really sell their summer slate – and beyond – with good old- fashioned star power and well-chosen clips. In addition to extended looks at their summer lineup, the show also featured the first glimpse anywhere of footage from upcoming movies Les Miserables, 47 Ronin, Oblivion which just started shooting with Tom Cruise, next summer’s R.I.P.D., and a specially produced animated piece just for CinemaCon to announce the 2013 arrival of Despicable Me 2. But the clear emphasis was on this summer’s promising-looking lineup as Fogelson opened by saying, “it is a good time for Universal”, especially with the studio’s early 2012 box office success that he noted has made them No. 1 in market share so far this year with such films as Contraband, Safe House which has grossed over $200 million globally (Denzel Washington’s second biggest hit), American Reunion which Fogelson said will also surpass the $200 million global figure before it’s done as well as The Lorax which he noted is one of only three animated films since July 2010 to clear $200 million domestically – and two of them are from the studio’s partnership with Illumination. Read More »

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Universal Extends Imagine Entertainment Deal Through 2016

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In a move that continues the longest standing production deal Universal Pictures has ever had in its 100-year history, the studio has extended its deal with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard through 2016. These mega-producer deals have been getting trimmed all over town, though, and the Imagine deal has shifted from an exclusive to a first-look deal. Going forward, Howard will be able to direct more films elsewhere, and Grazer can produce at other studios. He is now producing the upcoming Academy Awards with Don Mischer. The Imagine extension was just finalized by Universal chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley.

The last deal Grazer and Howard made with the studio was set to expire in 2013. Imagine has made around 50 films since the partners first were brought into the Universal in 1986 by Ron Meyer, at the time Grazer’s former agent at CAA and had just transitioned to the top job at Universal. Like every producer-studio relationship, the Universal and Imagine arrangement has been tested in the past few years. The studio said no to The Dark Tower, a feature trilogy and two limited-run TV series adapted from the Stephen King novel series that Howard was to direct, with Javier Bardem starring and Grazer producing with Akiva Goldsman and King. The filmmakers continue to develop the project and expect to make it elsewhere. Universal and Imagine also mutually decided to not go forward with Cartel, a drama that Asger Leth was going to direct. Read More »

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Hammond: ‘Bridesmaids’ A Serious Oscar Contender? Universal Chiefs Say Yes

By | Wednesday December 21, 2011 @ 4:53pm PST
Pete Hammond

If anyone were to have told you back on May 13 when Universal’s raunchy female comedy Bridesmaids opened that we would seriously be discussing its Best Picture Oscar nomination prospects a week before Christmas, the status of their mental health would been called into question. But even though it remains a long shot Oscar pundits are actively debating its Best Pic potential. Universal is ratcheting up its campaign with an eye on the prize it never dared dream about, and kudos for the Judd Apatow produced film directed by Paul Feig keep piling up as this awards season gets curiouser and curiouser.

For your consideration:

Bridemaids was recently named one of the year’s top 10 films by the American Film Institute, a prestigious and sought-after honor by awards merchants. It received two key SAG award nominations (a prime indicator of industry sentiment) for Outstanding Cast of a Motion Picture (SAG’s version of Best Picture) and Best Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy. She also won the Boston Film Critics nod for Supporting Actress and was named in the same category by the Critics Choice Movie Awards (which also nominated the film for Best Comedy and Ensemble). The Golden Globes nominated Bridesmaids for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy and Kristen Wiig for lead actress. Both Entertainment Weekly critics named the film one of their top three of the year. It made the Best Of lists of both A.O.Scott and Manohla Dargis at the NY Times and its current Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus score stands at 90% … Read More »

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Universal Pictures Buys Paris Animation Unit For Chris Meledandri’s Illumination

By | Monday November 14, 2011 @ 3:15pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment established itself as a reliable provider of family films for Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley, the studio has expanded its commitment to the division by acquiring the French animation unit of Mac Guff Ligne. That’s the Paris-based concern that has animated such Illumination films as Despicable Me and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. The animators there will work full time on Illumination fare and Universal has also taken a long term lease on the the 35,000 square foot animation facility–housed above an Aston Martin dealership right near the Eiffel Tower–where the staff works. The animation unit is being renamed Illumination Mac Guff. The move gives Meledandri a dedicated staff and the equipment needed to grow its family film output. It is somewhat reminiscent of the strategy used by Fox and Meledandri when he was president of Fox Animation and the studio acquired Blue Sky Studios, the Connecticut-based generator of Fox’s CG animated films like Ice Age.

“In acquiring an animation studio located half way around the world, we are evolving our filmmaking model; one that is creating entertainment despite borders, boundaries and languages,” Meledandri said in a statement. “This is possible because of the exceptional leadership provided by Janet Healy in running our films and by Jacques Bled in having been one of the key founders of MGL. Above … Read More »

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Universal, Jason Blum And Paul Brooks Make First-Look Distribution Deal For Angle Films

By | Tuesday November 1, 2011 @ 11:07am PDT
Mike Fleming

LOS ANGELES, CA, November 1, 2011—Universal Pictures and Angle Films today announced a first-look distribution deal between the two companies. The newly formed Angle Films is jointly owned and operated by Paul Brooks’ Gold Circle Films and Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions. Its mandate is to finance and produce genre films with budgets ranging from $15 to $30 million. The distribution pact was announced today by Brooks, Blum and Universal Chairman Adam Fogelson and Co-Chairman Donna Langley.

Both Blumhouse and Gold Circle have separate deals at Universal for their respective core businesses, which will continue at the studio.

Read More »

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Cross Creek Makes Three-Year Distribution Deal With Universal Pictures

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Universal Pictures has made a three-year deal to distribute at least six pictures produced and funded by Cross Creek Pictures. The first film in this deal will be Rush, the Ron Howard-directed Formula One drama. Cross Creek, run by president Brian Oliver and CEO Timmy Thompson,  has quickly emerged as a significant film financier. They got started with the Darren Aronofsky-directed Black Swan and continue with the upcoming George Clooney-directed The Ides of March and Daniel Radcliffe-starrer The Woman in Black, which will be distributed by CBS Films.

The deal was announced by Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley, along with Oliver and Thompson.

Cross Creek is partnered with Exclusive Media Group as co-financier and co-producer of Rush, the Howard-directed drama about the battle between ’70s Formula One racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt that stars Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth and Inglourious Basterds‘ Daniel Bruhl. Peter Morgan wrote the script, and Howard and the actors shot some footage during Formula One races held at Nurburgring Race Track in Germany. It was there, in the 70s, that Lauda was almost killed in a fiery accident that is a major part of the drama. The film seems a natural fit for Universal, since Oliver’s fellow producers are Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Both Imagine and Cross Creek have overall deals at the studio.

Aside from pictures that Cross Creek brings into the equation, the company will likely become a financier of existing Universal projects getting close to green lights. The budgets of the films will range from $15 million-$65 million, with the average film costing between $25 million-$35 million. Cross Creek is set up to generate up to four films per year, with Universal to distribute at least two of them with a wide-release commitment. Read More »

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Universal Pictures Re-Ups Donna Langley As Co-Chairman

By | Tuesday September 27, 2011 @ 12:25pm PDT
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Universal Pictures Co-Chairman Donna Langley will continue her term through 2014. The studio extended the option on her deal, a move that was widely expected when Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson re-upped last week and will continue to have full day-to-day operating responsibility for the Motion Picture Group, reporting to Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer (whose contract was recently re-upped through 2015) and NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. That was a signal that the studio’s production team would remain intact after NBCUniversal was acquired by Comcast. Langley will continue to serve as a key strategic business partner overseeing the company’s production department, Focus Features and the studio’s worldwide acquisitions efforts. She reports to Fogelson and has been co-chairman since October 2009. Read More »

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Focus Features Exec Peter Kujawski Takes Acquisitions Exec Veep Post at Universal

By | Monday September 26, 2011 @ 12:52pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Universal Pictures co-chairman Donna Langley appointed Peter Kujawski to the post of EVP Worldwide Acquisitions. Kujawski is currently EVP International Sales for the Universal-owned specialty film label Focus Features. The Universal features team got a vote of confidence when chairman Adam Fogelson was given an early re-up, and Langley is also negotiating to extend her term with the studio.

Kujawski is charged with centralizing and streamlining Universal’s acquisitions and to maximize distribution opportunities. He’ll report to Langley and be based in Los Angeles. He isn’t replacing anyone directly, but does pick up some of the slack left when Christian Grass left the studio in July. Kujawski will also work closely with Universal Pictures President of International David Kosse. “Peter’s vast experience selling specialty films gives him a unique perspective on the global marketplace and undeniably qualifies him to lead our acquisitions efforts,” Langley said. Read More »

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Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson Re-Upped Through 2014

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: NBCUniversal’s new owners at Comcast have given a vote of confidence to the studio’s feature film operation. They’ve exercised an option on Universal Pictures’ Chairman Adam Fogelson and extended his contract through 2014. I’m told that Fogelson is, in turn, in the process of exercising the option of Donna Langley and she will continue as the studio’s co-chairman. They will also keep their executive team intact. Fogelson will continue to have full day-to-day operating responsibility for the Motion Picture Group, reporting to Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer (whose contract was recently re-upped through 2015) and will now also report to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke.

While Universal has had its ups and downs, higher-ups are clearly convinced that Fogelson, Langley and their team are making progress. They’ve had recent hits –Bridesmaids, Hop! and Fast Five– but also had some recent misses that include The Dilemma, Change-Up and Cowboys & Aliens. In the latter case, the studio was on the hook for one-third of the film, and shared that third with Relativity Media. It has also been a year in which Fogelson and his team have made some painful decisions and let pricey productions go. That began with the Guillermo Del Toro-directed At the Mountains of Madness, which Universal developed for years and which was ready to go with Tom Cruise, until the studio made a late decision not to go forward because of the possibility the $150M film could carry an R-rating. Universal also dropped two projects that were in advanced  stages of development: The Dark Tower, the Akiva Goldsman-directed adaptation of the Stephen King novel series that was to be made into three feature films and two limited-run TV series, with the first film and TV segment directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer and Goldsman; and Oiuja, the Hasbro board game that had McG directing and Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes partners producing with Hasbro. The moves were surprising because Howard and Grazer are cornerstone filmmakers for Universal; and Del Toro and Hasbro have overall deals there. Ouija is one of several Hasbro properties the studio dropped, the others being the Gore Verbinski-directed Clue, the Ridley Scott-directed Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering. These were part of a groundbreaking deal the studio made with the toymaker several years ago, but the studio and Hasbro have re-focused their attention solely on Battleship, Stretch Armstrong, and Candy Land. Read More »

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Universal Makes First-Look Deal With Jason Blum Of ‘Paranormal Activity’ And ‘Insidious’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Jason Blum will bring the studio into the low-budget but often high-gross world of genre films. Universal Pictures has made a 3-year first-look deal with Blum and his Blumhouse Productions which produced the Paranormal Activity franchise, and followed that up with Insidious, the James Wan-directed thriller that has already become one of the most profitable films of 2011. A sequel seems inevitable.

The original Paranormal Activity cost about $15,000 and grossed $193 million. The first sequel cost $3 million and grossed $177 million worldwide and the third film debuts Oct. 21. Insidious cost $1.5 million and grossed $81 million worldwide and is still rolling out. This guy is minting money. He’s producing the latest installment of the fright franchise Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes for Dimension Films, produced the Barry Levinson-directed eco-horror film The Bay, The River for ABC and the Jay Chandresakar-directed comedy Baby Makers. He is producing the Oren Peli-directed Area 51 for Paramount Pictures, as well as The Lords of Salem, with Rob Zombie directing. Blum’s also an exec producer on the John Hillcoat-directed The Wettest County in the World. This amounts to an aggressive move into the low-budget area for Universal, which, if anything, is known for spending generously on its slates. Read More »

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Adam Fogelson Grants Box Office Reprieve

As I revealed last weekend, I was so convinced that R-rated comedy Bridesmaids featuring women burping and farting for our female amusement wouldn’t make over $13M, even $15M tops, that I promised Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson that I would leave Hollywood box office reporting forever if his pic opened to the $20+M weekend he thought it would. Well, we know it did $26.2M domestic and is beating Thor 3D in midweek. So today I asked Adam when I should schedule the moving vans. Here is his wry reply:

“In my job, I receive hundreds of emails every day on matters large and small. But never have I received as many emails as I did this past Saturday – most thanking me for singlehandedly driving you out of the box office reporting business. However, gratified as I am by the outpouring, I hereby cancel our pact. To deny others the chance to prove you wrong (which does occasionally happen) seems just plain selfish. And by the way, thank you for publicly admitting your mistake. You lived up to your promise.”

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Universal Shakeup: President Of Production Debbie Liebling Exited; Replaced By Peter Cramer & Jeffrey Kirschenbaum

EXCLUSIVE: I’ve just learned that Universal Chairman Adam Fogelson and Co-Chairman Donna Langley have restructured the studio’s production team. Veterans Peter Cramer and Jeffrey Kirschenbaum will be upped to co-Presidents of Production, replacing the current President of Production Debbie Liebling who is “leaving to pursue other opportunities”, I’m told, after 18 months at the studio. Liebling came to Universal from Twentieth Century Fox.

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