Michael Nathanson, who recently exited as Columbia Pictures corporate executive veepee, will assume the prexy/CEO slot at Warner Bros.-based New Regency Prods. Feb. 15, New Regency confirmed Monday.
The appointment follows a Daily Variety story Jan. 14 that tabbed Nathanson as the top candidate for the post and reported that New Regency prexy Steven D. Reuther was ankling to set up his own indie production company with ties to his former firm. Reuther’s departure was confirmed Feb. 2. In swapping Reuther for Nathanson, New Regency dramatically changes its corporate focus. While Reuther focused on the day-to-day production of individual movies, Nathanson is likely to concentrate on developing a balanced product mix over a larger number of movies.
“When Steve and I realized that he was having less fun running the company and more fun producing movies, it became clear we needed someone with more corporate experience,” New Regency chairman Arnon Milchan said. “… And though I hate to say it, we also need to look more like a studio now that we’re increasing the company’s capacity.”
The appointment of Nathanson was viewed in Hollywood as a precursor to more activity at New Regency, including the long-term possibilities of additional off-balance-sheet financing, a public offering or an outright acquisition by Warner Bros.
Milchan said Nathanson’s appointment will mean an increase in product in the short term. “With our new management team in place, New Regency plans to increase its production schedule to 15 movies per year. Michael is an integral part of these plans.”
That figure anticipates the 1995 slate. Five pix are scheduled to be made this year.
Nathanson’s new responsibilities will include overseeing day-to-day operations of such current New Regency product as the Michael Tolkin-written/directed Ixtlan co-production “The New Age,” starring Peter Weller, Judy Davis and Adam West; and the Tommy Lee Jones-starring baseball biopic “Cobb.”
Other pix in the New Regency pipeline include the AIDS dramas “Second Best,” starring John Hurt, and “Boys on the Side,” which features Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker and Drew Barrymore. The latter will be produced by Reuther. New Regency also has the upcoming Joel Schumacher-directed “The Client,” starring Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones, skedded for WB rollout.
An industry observer predicted that Milchan’s international financial expertise will mesh with Nathanson’s domestic production and marketing skills and noted the creative contacts that both top executives have cultivated over the years.
“We’re very pleased that Michael has joined New Regency,” WB prexy/chief operating officer Terry Semel said in a statement. “We feel strongly that he is the right man for this company. Many of us know Michael well and we look forward to working closely with him on New Regency’s ambitious new slate.”
Milchan said the decision to appoint Nathanson happened “almost simultaneously” with Reuther’s decision to leave.
“Michael knows the community is behind him,” Milchan said. “I’ve known him forever, so it was an easy call.” But since Nathanson became interested in the New Regency slot while still at Columbia, “everything was on a holding pattern for a while,” he said.
Milchan could not elaborate on Reuther’s new affiliation with New Regency, but said that “the wonderful thing about this situation is that there is now a continuity for Steve with the company. We will be close to the process of whatever he chooses to do … What we have agreed with Steve is that after five years together it is time to take a deep breath.”
Milchan described the overall relationship between Reuther and Nathanson as “very friendly” and expects the transition to be likewise.
Nathanson was named Colpix executive VP of production in 1986 before rising to president of production in 1989. He took the corporate executive veepee job last August, when Columbia Pictures chairman Mark Canton recruited former WB executive Lisa Henson to take the reins of the studio’s production arm.
During his tenure in Culver City, Nathanson shepherded “Bram Stoker’s Dracula ,” and “A League of Their Own,” as well as unexpected successes like “A River Runs Though It” and “Boyz N the Hood.”
Nathanson was an early dissenter on plans for “Last Action Hero” but agreed to support the production when it became clear he was outgunned on the decision to finance the big-budget production.
Prior to joining Columbia, Nathanson was prexy of the motion picture arm of Gladden Entertainment Corp. and also has worked for MGM, United Artists and Warner Bros. He began his entertainment career at NBC Sports.