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Universal Pictures' new movie chiefs have their in-house premiere in front of top brass

October 6, 2009 |  5:09 pm

Universal Pictures' newly promoted executives, Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley, made their off-Hollywood debut this morning as the studio's new movie chiefs. The two took center stage at a town hall meeting on stage 35 attended by several hundred of their new direct reports and their boss, Universal Studios President Ron Meyer, and his boss, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker.

Meyer acknowledged how bad a year Universal had had but said he now believed he had the right team in place to lead the charge and tackle all the challenges that his and every other studio face, according to people at the event.

Zucker said he was there to support the new team and remarked that the management shake-up (that unseated Marc Shmuger and David Linde) came about not because the two did something wrong but because it was time for a change.

During a Q&A, Zucker was asked, "To Comcast or not to Comcast?," a reference to NBC Universal's talks to possibly sell a controlling stake to the cable giant, which just made him chuckle. Naturally, Zucker ducked the question, saying that while there were a number of possible scenarios, he couldn't comment on any of them.

Fogelson fielded a question about whether the studio was going to focus on making big tentpole movies. Fogelson said there was a sense that there was "tentpole envy" at the studio but assured the crowd that the new regime will take the big swings only "if we do it responsibly."

Asked about the future of Universal's specialty film label, Focus Features, Langley said the division has been consistently profitable and she looks forward to working with the executives there. The question was understandable given the fact that Disney just drastically downsized its specialty label, Miramax Films.

Universal's top business executive, Vice Chairman Rick Finkelstein, talked about finding ways to cope with the movie industry's changing business models and DVD slump.

Fogelson, Langley, Meyer and Zucker each paid the obligatory tribute to the studio's departed movie chiefs, Shmuger and Linde, who endured a drawn-out and painful ousting that finally reached a finale Monday morning.

-- Claudia Eller