Deadline Hollywood’s 2nd annual event THE CONTENDERS about the movie awards season was held November 10th at LA’s Landmark Theatre for invited Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Guild voters. Watch the video of its marquee event: The ‘Deadline Moguls Panel’ composed of Warner Bros’ Jeff Robinov, 20th Century Fox’s Jim Gianopulos, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Amy Pascal, Paramount’s Rob Moore, Universal’s Adam Fogelson, Summit/Lionsgate’s Rob Friedman, and DreamWorks’ Stacey Snider who all discussed the challenges of this movie awards season. It was an insightful and fascinating discussion moderated by Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and Film/NY Editor Mike Fleming. A transcript follows the video below:
2ND UPDATE: Lee Rich, the powerful TV mogul responsible for some of the medium’s most popular programming like The Waltons, Dallas, and Eight Is Enough, died on Thursday. He was 93, according to Warner Bros. (Even though the birthdate on his official biography would make him only 85). Recognized inside and outside the television industry for his extrardinarily successful career spanning six decades, he helped found and became chairman of Lorimar in its heyday (where he was nominated for 5 Emmys and won Best Drama Series for The Waltons) and later took over MGM-UA. His death comes just as Warner Bros Television next month unveils its next generation Dallasdrama series on TNT.
“Lee’s passion for television, his business acumen, and his love of the creative process made him an extraordinary mentor for all of us who had the good fortune to work for him,” said Bruce Rosenblum, President Warner Bros. Television Group and Chairman & CEO, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. “Lee was a creative force who established the gold standard for independent production companies, and the Lorimar/Warner Bros merger was transformational for Warner Bros. Television.” Said CBS Corp chief Les Moonves: “Lee Rich was a giant in the television industry who produced some of the most iconic series in the history of the medium and influenced audiences worldwide. He also served as an early mentor to me while I was at Lorimar, providing valuable guidance for which I will forever be appreciative.” TV icon Norman Lear called Rich “one of the greatest producers to ever come out of advertising and he knew talent better than anyone else.”
“Lee Rich was an indelible talent who helped to shape the television landscape,” said Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, Co-Chairmen and CEOs of MGM. “We are incredibly proud that MGM is a part of his legacy. Lee’s role as Chairman and CEO of MGM/UA and the prolific body of work he created throughout his career continue to inspire the work we do today.”
Rich started his media career at Benton & Bowles advertising agency where he packaged and sold such seminal sitcoms as The Dick Van Dyke Show for Procter & Gamble and The Danny Thomas Show and The Andy Griffith Show, both for General Foods. In those early days of television, admen like Rich enjoyed almost total control over programming, and Rich ultimately headed the television programming and media departments. He left the agency as SVP in 1965 to form his own production company, Mirisch-Rich Productions which produced Rat Patrol and one of the first Garry Marshall/Jerry Belson shows, Hey, Landlord. Rich returned to advertising to run the Leo Burnett Agency. But then he left again to form the indie Lorimar Productions (later known as Lorimar Television and Lorimar Distribution) with Irwin Molasky and Merv Adelson. Here is a wonderful 1999 interview done with Rich by the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences (obit continues below):
BREAKING… SHOCKER! RICH ROSS OUT AT DISNEY
“It was a very difficult decision. Very. But his team lost faith in him. The town, as you know, never wanted him to succeed. And it was just the wrong fit,” a Disney insider tells me, explaining Walt Disney President/CEO Bob Iger’s decision announced today to fire Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross. Iger began discussions several weeks ago with Ross to end his tenure. But, after 2 1/2 years in the job, Ross’ own slate of movies had not even bowed: Peter Hedge’s The Odd Life Of Timothy Green (August 15th), Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie (October 5th), Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great And Powerful (March 8th, 2013), Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp under the Jerry Bruckheimer banner (May 31st, 2013), Maleficent (March 14th, 2014) starring Angelina Jolie. The rest of Disney’s release slate consist of Pixar/Walt Disney Animation, Marvel, and DreamWorks pics. Disney strenuously denies there are any problems with Ross’ upcoming films. Instead, insiders strenuously complain about Ross’ personality:
“He had an ‘awareness’ issue,” a Disney source explains to me. “Sometimes people, when they’re put in a different place, they manage it well. And sometimes they don’t. It has nothing to do with the slate of his upcoming films. They’re fine. It’s just about leadership and management. Rich didn’t make the transition. He got caught up in the trappings of the job rather than the specifics. What it became about was we saw him making stupid mistakes. Focusing on things that were not important like parties and celebrities. People that were doing business with us in the film business not only internally but externally were complaining that they were having a hard time doing business with him.”
Rare indeed is the movie mogul who isn’t arrogant. But as much as Ross’ style and substance were the problems, and of his own making, so was his situation, which wasn’t. Because the Walt Disney Studios has become unmanageable. Among Ross’ most vocal detractors were Disney’s mega-shareholder Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, Pixar/Walt Disney Animation Studios chief creative officer and mega-exec John Lasseter, mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and DreamWorks mega-filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider. The fact is that these powerful personalities — oh, hell, let’s call them what they are: major-league pricks — have come together in one place making so many demands on the parent studio that it’s hard for anyone who finds himself nominally in charge able to keep them all satisfied. Interestingly, Ross’ predecessor, the famously people-pleasing Dick Cook, did for a time and maybe could have continued well into the future. But Iger fired him, too.
Ross arrived at a watershed time for the studio: shortly after Iger entered into the 2009 deal with Marvel. The comic book, TV, and film entertainment company’s Israeli owner Ike Perlmutter is not just a notoriously tough custumer but a budget-obsessed megalomaniac besides a recluse. He has taken control of Disney’s consumer products division already (firing here, fixing there), and my sources tell me he is making Iger’s life miserable with back-seat managing of everything, especially Walt Disney Studios. (“Iger has real problems with Ike. That’s the real story,” one of my insiders tells me. ”Bob thought he could handle him. But Ike is uncharmable.”) Lasseter had the full force of then mega-stockholder Steve Jobs behind him, and singlehandedly caused the film studio to back the loser live action picture John Carter. DreamWorks, of course, drove two Universal and Paramount crazy with their constant complaining before it started to give Disney the same mistreatment beginning in 2009 and continuing through War Horse. Meanwhile, Jerry Bruckheimer’s films were falling out of favor at the box office. Now Bruckheimer is pissed that, after all the hits he’s delivered in the past, under The Lone Ranger‘s ‘favored nation’ deal negotiated with the studio to deflate a bloated budget, he (+ Depp + Verbinski) get paid big bucks only when Disney recoups.
And then there is Iger himself, infamous for firing top executives just when they’re about to turn their divisions around.
BREAKING… Below is what fired Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross just sent to his staff, followed by a statement from Disney Chairman Bob Iger. But make no mistake about it: Ross did not simply decide to step down – he was fired. He was named Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios on October 5, 2009. Previously, he’d been the very successful President of Disney Channels Worldwide overseeing global hits like Hannah Montana and High School Musical. His ouster now ends his 15+ year Disney career which included one of the most public and worst film failures in Hollywood — John Carter, a $200M writedown for the Walt Disney Co:
For the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented people on behalf of the world’s best loved brand. During that time, we’ve told some amazing stories around the world, created successful TV programming, movies, and franchises that generated new opportunities for the company in the process.
I’ve always said our success is created and driven by our people – whom I consider to be the absolute best in the business. But, the best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities. It’s one of the leadership lessons I’ve learned during my career, and it’s something I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to as I look at the challenges and opportunities ahead.
I believe in this extraordinary Walt Disney Studios team, and I believe in our strong slate of films and our ability to make and market them better than anyone else. But, I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me. For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today.
It has been my honor to work with such incredible teams – at Disney Channels Worldwide and The Walt Disney Studios and the many other Disney businesses I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with. I know I leave the Studios in good hands and, even on separate paths, I am confident we are all destined for continued success.
Statement from Bob Iger, Chairman/CEO, Walt Disney Co
For more than a decade, Rich Ross’s creative instincts, business acumen and personal integrity have driven results in key businesses for Disney, redefining success in kids and family entertainment and launching franchises that generate value across our entire company.
EXCLUSIVE: Hollywood Moguls Stopping Obama Donations Because Of President’s Piracy Stand: “Not Give A Dime Anymore”
EXCLUSIVE: Internet sites on their SOPA-Strike may be conducting a blackout but Hollywood studios are conducting a boycott. I’ve learned that Hollywood studio chiefs individually and as a group are drawing a line in the sand on the piracy issue with the Obama re-election campaign and refusing to give any more donations. The blowup came after President Obama on Saturday dashed moguls’ hopes that he would remain on the sidelines in the dispute over the U.S. House Of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act and the U.S. Senate’s Protect IP Act. In a posting on the White House web site, three of the Obama administration’s top officials for Internet and intellectual property matters said that they share many of the concerns that the Internet community has about the Hollywood-supported bills. The trio said that they “will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, and Special Assistant to the President Howard Schmidt tried to soften the blow to Hollywood by acknowledging that that online piracy is “a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response.” They added that they plan to host an online event “to get more input” on the matter. But Hollywood moguls told me they “didn’t know it was going to be as over the top as it was” and took this as a declaration of war. “We just feel very let down by the administration and Obama for not supporting us,” one studio chief explained to me. “At least let him remain neutral and not go against it until we can get the legislation right. But Obama went against it. I’m personally not going to support him anymore and not give a dime anymore,” another movie mogul who’s also a well-known Obama supporter told me this week.
So far the most outspoken mogul against the Obama administration on this issue has been Rupert Murdoch who on Saturday told his new Twitter audience: “So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.” But I’ve learned that other moguls privately are having “direct and personal conversations” with Obama and his administration and the Democratic Party. Several moguls have informed Obama’s newly anointed Hollywood re-election liason to the entertainment community Nicole Avant and her husband who is helping her, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, that they are pulling out of major fundraisers planned over the next few days and won’t participate in any more headed by Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (whom they see as in the pocket of the Internet giants like Google).
EXCLUSIVE: There won’t be any formal announcement but I’ve learned that Brad Grey re-upped as Chairman/CEO of Paramount Pictures Corp a few weeks ago. It coincides with Paramount placing No. 1 in market share among the Hollywood studios and perhaps even keeping that crown for 2011. Right now the studio is about $100 million ahead of Warner Bros which usually takes the coveted title with about half a dozen more movies released than Paramount this year. Granted, Paramount mostly distributed rather than owned most of the film fare that put it in first place. But No. 1 is still No. 1. Meanwhile, the minor news that Grey and his wife recently bought a $15.5M swanky NYC coop in The Carlyle tower recently sparked a new wave of rumors that Brad was going to divide his time between Los Angeles and New York to work on more Viacom business for boss Philippe Dauman. But I can knock that down now. Certainly Grey’s signing a new deal to keep him atop Paramount for 5 more years through early 2017 will help the continuing stability at the studio run by him, Vice Chairman Rob Moore, and Film Group President Adam Goodman. Frankly, I didn’t know if the studio’s roiling would ever stop at the start of Grey’s tenure. Hollywood openly wondered if the Brillstein-Grey Entertainment co-founder could segue from a mostly TV manager/producer into a studio movie mogul. And it didn’t help that Grey churned through a revolving door of top executives: Gail Berman, Alli Shearmur, Brad Weston, and Jon Lesher, until Goodman finally fit the bill. And during the first years Grey outlasted widespread whispers that he was about to be canned. Of course those ended when DreamWorks exited Paramount after a very unhappy pairing from 2006 to 2009.
Grey’s turf includes responsiblility for all feature film development and production for the Paramount Motion Picture Group which includes Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Paramount Animation, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies. He is also responsible for the worldwide business operations for Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Home Entertainment, Paramount Digital Entertainment, Paramount Famous Productions, Paramount Licensing Inc., Paramount Studio Group and Worldwide Television Distribution. When Grey arrived at Paramount, the studio was in a decidedly down cycle with the cupboard bare of decent product. (“It’s like turning the Titanic,” Grey said on more than one occasion.) Immediately Grey struck deals with Marvel Studios and DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation to fill the distribution and production pipeline until Paramount could get back on its feet with its own pics. Grey greenlighted the blocbuster franchises Transformers and Paranormal Activity, Jackass, and GI Joe, and re-booted the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek brands. The studio also has had several successful franchises — Shrek, its spin-off Puss In Boots, and Kung Fu Panda – from DreamWorks Animation whose deal runs out at the end of 2012. But Paramount also has the awards-touted Adventures Of Tintin franchise just beginning this month (Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson plan a trilogy) and began its own animation division with Oscar-buzzed Rango.
In terms of film financing, Paramount remains the one major without a risk-reducing constant partner. That’s why Fox has Dune, Warner Bros has Legendary, Disney has Kingdom, etc. Paramount’s existing investors include Skydance and Melrose II. The latter continues to have the right to co-finance sequels to the specific movies originally co-funded by them starting back in 2006. (Melrose I from 2004 was a $225 million fund bankrolling 25 Paramount films.) But no rights to finance any go-forward Paramount pics other than those sequels and no sequels that Paramount doesn’t want to make. I remember very clearly the moment 3 1/2 years ago that Hollywood studios received a nasty shock when the worldwide credit crunch began arriving on their doorsteps unannounced. The warning bell was sounded by an unfolding story about venerable Paramount’s financing crisis to mitigate the studio’s risk on 30 films. Grey quickly put out the spin that the studio walked away from one big financing deal because the terms weren’t good enough. The result is that, all this time, Paramount has not had an overall co-financing deal. It’s not crucial for survival, but it does let moguls sleep sounder at night. Instead its parent company Viacom has been almost solely on the hook for financing new slates of pictures, which is like a tightrope walker working without a net. Remember what happened to the Wallendas?
The alternative at Paramount was for filmmakers to BYOF (Bring Your Own Financing) so, without an overall co-financing deal, Paramount arranged for individual partners to help fund its slate of films on a one-by-one basis. Now, as Paramount goes forward with more of its own pics, I predict that Grey will try to put together an overall co-financing deal. And if not? Clearly Brad is sleeping soundly at night until early 2017.