Paramount's Brad Grey signs on for five more years
Brad Grey, whose purported demise at Paramount Pictures has been the subject of on-and-off speculation in Hollywood for at least two years, has just signed on for five more years as chairman and chief executive of the Melrose Avenue studio. His boss at parent company Viacom Inc., Philippe Dauman, extended Grey's contract to early 2014, although it wasn't set to expire until March of 2010.
The development, first reported today on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily, is a vote of confidence in Grey, a former talent agent who took over Paramount in March 2005. Since then he has built up the struggling studio, including bolstering its international business, wooing big-ticket talent like Brad Pitt and writer-producer-director J.J. Abrams, and landing distribution partnerships with such key suppliers as DreamWorks Animation and "Iron Man" producer Marvel Studios.
At the same time, Grey's box office and management track record has been mixed.
He's credited with helping to launch the "Transformers" franchise (in partnership with DreamWorks) and jump-starting a languishing fourth "Indiana Jones" movie with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford. Under Grey's watch, Paramount has risen from No. 6 in domestic box office share at 9.4% in 2005 to No. 2 at 16.4% in 2008, according to Box Office Mojo, thanks to such hits as "Iron Man," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda." Then again, the studio has had its share of misses under Grey, including the costly films "The Love Guru," "Zodiac" and "Stardust."
There also been a healthy dose of internal turmoil and controversy.
Though Grey was lauded for engineering Viacom's 2006 purchase of DreamWorks, he also was ultimately criticized for alienating founders Steven Spielberg and David Geffen and executive Stacey Snider. Not long after the acquisition, the DreamWorks principals were furious with Grey for grabbing credit for their movies that helped turn around Paramount.
Of course, Spielberg and Snider have since left Paramount and are now setting up a new studio with a distribution deal in place with rival Universal Pictures. And Geffen has sailed off into the sunset. The loss of DreamWorks triggered speculation that Grey's job was again on the line.
Grey acknowledges that his nearly four-year run has been bumpy.
"It's been a complicated couple of years," he said. "It's been a process and a challenging one. But I enjoy the job and I am proud of what we've done. I'm very bullish about our team and the movies we have this year," which include the current release "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and the upcoming summer releases "Transformers 2," "G.I. Joe" and a new "Star Trek."
The Paramount chief said that when Viacom honcho Sumner Redstone initially hired him, Grey told the media mogul it would take five years to turn the company around. "We're well ahead of schedule."
-- Claudia Eller
Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times