Granat out at Walden Media
The executive shakeout at billionaire Philip Anschutz's Walden Media continues with the departure of co-Chief Executive Cary Granat. For the better part of the year, Granat and everyone else in Hollywood knew that the co-CEO's days were numbered when the Walden brass began interviewing potential successors, including former Disney Studios executive Nina Jacobson. In March, the Century City-based entertainment outfit hired ex-Imagine Films' Michael Bostick as the top creative executive. Granat, who was forced to share his CEO title with Bostick, was basically relegated to overseeing Walden's "The Chronicles of Narnia" franchise.
As of Dec. 1, Granat will relinquish his executive duties at Walden but will be the company's creative consultant on the third film in the "Narnia" series, "Voyage of The Dawn Treader." Production has not yet been green-lighted but could be by month's end if the final script and budget are approved by Walden and its partner on the picture, Walt Disney Studios.
David Weil, CEO of Anschutz Film Group, said the budget has to come in "considerably less than $200 million" in order to get the go-ahead for production in the first quarter of next year. Although the first movie based on C.S. Lewis' classic childrens books, 2005's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" was a blockbuster that grossed $745 million worldwide, its sequel, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," which cost north of $200 million, was a big disappointment. Despite racking up $419 million in worldwide ticket sales, the movie is still in the red, according to a person familiar with the situation. The DVD is due out in early next month.
Walden has had a very mixed track record at the box office, with more misses than hits. The company had a surprise hit this summer with the 3-D sci-fi "Journey to the Center of the Earth," which Warner Bros./New Line released, but its most recent offering, "City of Ember," went down in flames.
Last month, Walden downsized Fox Walden, its 2-year-old marketing partnership with 20th Century Fox after a series of flops that included "The Seeker," "Mr. Magorium's Emporium" and "Nim's Island." Fifteen executives at Fox Walden were let go, and of that group, three moved to Walden and a few went to Fox.
Weil said that with Granat's departure, Walden -- which has about 57 employees -- has "no additional restructuring plans as of now."
Granat co-founded Walden in 2000 after leaving his 6 1/2 year executive gig at Dimension Films. Anschutz bought a majority interest in the company in late 2001. Granat and Walden co-founder Micheal Flaherty continue to own a minority stake in the company.
In a phone interview today, Granat said that after he, Anschutz and Weil tried "different configurations of how things might work, at the end of the day Michael [Bostick] was building out his slate and it was time to move on. Granat said he does not know what his next move is.