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Universal renews contracts for movie chiefs Marc Shmuger, David Linde

January 27, 2009 | 12:19 pm


There's now executive parity at Universal Pictures. As part of a four-year contract extension, the studio's movie bosses, Marc Shmuger and David Linde, will now share the chairman title.

Neither adds new responsibilities in his executive roles. But the announcement, which accompanied a "town hall" meeting of employees on the Universal lot this morning, signals a vote of confidence and management stability for the NBC Universal-owned movie studio. Shmuger's and Linde's contract renewal comes on the heels of company-wide cutbacks at the entertainment giant, which like other businesses is grappling with the economic downturn.

In March 2006, when they were paired to succeed studio chief Stacey Snider (who left to join DreamWorks), Shmuger was crowned chairman and Linde co-chairman. Over the last three years, the two have helped steady Universal after it was rattled by the departure of the highly-regarded Snider.

When they took over, Shmuger and Linde made it priority to keep the studio's key production companies, Imagine Entertainment and Working Title, in the fold by clinching new multi-year deals with each.

According to Universal, the two have overseen the "two most profitable years" in the studio's history when it logged a worldwide box office record in 2007 thanks to such hits as the action picture "The Bourne Ultimatum" and comedy "Knocked Up." The studio then surpassed that milestone last year with global ticket sales of $2.8 billion, fueled by releases "Mamma Mia!" and "The Incredible Hulk."

And, like all studio chiefs, they've had to endure their share of box office misses such as "The Kingdom," "Flash of Genius" and the costly comedy sequel "Evan Almighty."

-- Claudia Eller

Photo: David Linde , left, and Marc Shmuger. Credit: Alex Berliner / Berliner Studios/BEI Images