Prez will roar for five more

MGM's Nathanson to have greater focus on prod'n accounts, financing

MGM Pictures prexy and chief operating officer Michael Nathanson has reupped for five years.

Under new contract, Nathanson will continue to oversee development, acquisitions and physical as well as creative production of new pics while playing a role in marketing and distribution at the Lion.

Nathanson already shares greenlighting powers with studio topper Alex Yemenidjian and vice chair and chief operating officer Chris McGurk. But Nathanson’s job also will grow more strategic, McGurk said, with a greater focus on production accounts and financing.

One of the last departmental heads to remain from the Frank Mancuso regime, Nathanson recently has helped the studio to secure a stronger market foothold. The Lion’s B.O. for 2001, spurred by such pics as “Hannibal” and “Legally Blonde,” already is the company’s highest annual B.O. on record, with John Woo’s “Windtalkers” and Barry Levinson’s “Bandits” still to come.

Coming early next year are “Hart’s War,” with Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell, and “Rollerball,” with Chris Klein, LL Cool J and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.

Going forward, studio plans to release 10-15 pics a year under the MGM label. Last year, it released seven.

“Under (Nathanson’s) direction,” McGurk said, “the studio has assembled what is by far its most impressive development and production slate in decades, and I’m very pleased that he will continue to spearhead those initiatives.”

High praise

McGurk credited Nathanson with helping to forge a new, more collaborative business structure at MGM, in which strategic decisions are shared more broadly across departments.

“We’ve made an effort to break down the walls between divisions,” McGurk explained.

He said Nathanson also has developed more producer alliances for the company, with the likes of Hyde Park and Atlas Entertainment.

“MGM has made great strides in recent months,” said Nathanson, who noted that the Lion’s position as the only studio without a diversified corporate parent made his job especially gratifying.

“The ability to contribute one’s efforts to making the movies has an effect on the bottom line unlike any other major studio because we’re a pure-play company,” Nathanson said. “Every decision you make is valued very highly.”

Looking ahead

The Lion will put just one more pic into production before the end of the year: “The Guy Thing” with Julia Stiles and Jason Lee.

In January, MGM will start production on two pics: “James Bond 20,” Pierce Brosnan’s new entry in the popular franchise, which marks its 40th anniversary in 2002; and “Barber Shop,” an Ice Cube pic produced by Robert Teitel and George Tillman, Jr., producers of “Soul Food.”

Nathanson was CEO of New Regency and prexy of worldwide production at Columbia before coming to MGM in 1997.

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