MGM Breakdown

HIGH POINTS: The present MGM/UA management — chairman and CEO Frank G. Mancuso, UA prexy John Calley and MGM prexy Mike Marcus — is trying to forget the 1993 B.O. figures inherited from the Alan Ladd Jr. regime: The best effort was made by the offbeat love story “Benny & Joon,” which hardly set off fireworks. The Christian Slater/Marisa Tomei romancer “Untamed Heart” coasted to second place. Though it only did slightly more than $ 2 million in business on a handful of screens, “The Lover” packed in Gotham auds for months. The Broadway-adapted “Six Degrees of Separation” raked in more than $ 72,000 on a handful of Gotham and Los Angeles screens right before the holidays, giving the studio a solid critical success.

1993 LOW POINTS: Comedy in any variety clearly failed for MGM/UA: “Undercover Blues” ($ 12.41 million B.O.); “Meteor Man” ($ 8.01 million take); “Son of the Pink Panther” ($ 2.45 million); and “Fatal Instinct” ($ 7.8 million on 1,886 screens) failed to cause much studio laughter.

RISING STARS: The rapid appointments of Robert Relyea and Elisabeth Seldes at MGM, and Rebecca Pollack and Jeff Kleeman at UA, helped bolster the studio’s new business profile — and its 100-mph development pace. A $ 960 million debt restructuring by parent outfit Credit Lyonnais didn’t hurt either.

In early December, the new studio management decided to hasten the installment of ex-Miramax marketing whiz Gerry Rich as exec marketing VP.

OVER AND OUT: The old-guard exodus that began with co-chairman Dennis C. Stanfill in June brought down the old studio superstructure bit by painful bit. The drawn-out makeover process included the exit of co-chairman Alan Ladd, Jr., prexy Charles Meeker, senior exec VP Ken Meyer, and claimed marketing and distrib prexy Ashley Boone as the last victim as the new year dawned.

OUTLOOK FOR ’94: Rich must oversee five Ladd-greenlit titles as well create a swift, overall strategy that will immediately distinguish Mancuso-approved MGM titles from UA fare.

When it comes to creating a new public identity for the studio, analysts agree a lot is riding on early releases such as UA’s “Higgins & Beech,” and that Rich’s future handiwork will be crucial in winning back skeptical industryites.

With the mad bomber drama “Blown Away” already in the can — starring the rapidly ascending Tommy Lee Jones and Jeff Bridges — MGM is looking at a potential blockbuster.

At UA, the low-budget, high-concept computer thriller “Hackers” will likely be second out of the gate, after “Higgins & Beech.” Other titles on a variedslate are the 17th James Bond installment, a remake of the hit-man actioner “The Mechanic” and an untitled project with Robert Duvall as co-producer.

ACE IN THE HOLE: In 1993, it was the year of the never-ending earthquakes for MGM/UA: Not only did the lengthy changing of the guard take its toll on studio morale, but the lingering notion that Leo was up for grabs added to the insecurity when billionaire bidders emerged out of nowhere.

MGM/UA’s ace in the hole thus turned out to be Credit Lyonnais, which — despite internal shake-ups of its own — remained loyal to Mancuso in the face of several would-be bidders and funneled an additional $ 210 million into the studio’s $ 190 million production budget.

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