United Intl. Pictures, the foreign distrib partnership among Paramount, MCA/Universal and MGM/UA, posted a record year in 1994, and the partners have rewarded UIP president/CEO Michael Williams-Jones by re-upping him for five years.
“I’m delighted with the renewal. The foreign marketplace is more exciting now than at any time over the past 25 years,” Williams-Jones said in a telephone interview from his London home.
“The payback for the huge levels of investment in multiplexing and in the renovation of the exhibition community could be the doubling of cinema admissions within the next 10 years,” he said.
In announcing the extension of Williams-Jones’ contract, the three studios reaffirmed their commitment to the UIP co-venture, now in its 25th year.
In a joint statement, Viacom Entertainment Group chairman Jonathan Dolgen, MGM/UA chairman Frank Mancuso and MCA Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Pollock said: “Michael Williams-Jones… has steered UIP’s growth in the international marketplace with great imagination and drive. Under his leadership, new markets such as Korea, India and Turkey have opened up to Western motion pictures.”
The company record for UIP last year eclipsed the previous high of about $1.5 billion B.O. in 1993, when “Jurassic Park” ruled the world. In 1994, the distrib reaped the spoils from a far wider spread of profitable films.
Its top grossers were “Schindler’s List,” which wound with $220 million, “The Flintstones” ($210 million) and “Forrest Gump” (heading for north of $200 million).
The UIP operation in Europe has been under fire of late. It is the subject of a seemingly interminable review by the European Commission, which must decide whether to extend the exemption from antitrust laws it granted to UIP in 1989. Williams-Jones does not know when to expect the EC’s verdict but asserted, “There has been an improvement in the attitude towards our industry in the post-GATT climate…. I’m very confident the EC will find that UIP adds value to the European marketplace.”
Williams-Jones entered the industry in 1967 with United Artists and has remained within the UIP group of companies from that date. He served in Africa, Latin America, the U.K. and the U.S., where he ran UA Intl. theatrical operations before switching to UIP when it was formed in 1981. He was named president in 1984.