Berman enlists agents of change

Par to make 20 to 26 movies a year, ink more producer deals

It’s crunch time for Gail Berman.

A month into her presidency at Paramount, Berman’s moved out of the meet-and-greet mode. In a series of hourlong meetings last week at the town’s top agencies, Berman and production co-presidents Alli Shearmur and Brad Weston spelled out how they see Par emerging from its perennial second-tier status.

“She was very realistic about where the studio’s going, particularly in admitting that there are not a lot of greenlit films on their slate,” one attendee says.

Berman — described as being direct, down-to-earth and passionate — made several points to the tenpercenters:

  • Par wants to focus on films with the dozen major stars that can make a movie work.

  • As a long-term goal, Par wants to expand significantly to making 20 to 26 movies a year, including eight to 10 at Paramount Classics, and more low-cost comedies.

  • Par wants more producer deals. In her first week, Berman signed Jason Blum to a first-look pact. And with Scott Rudin gone, other producers should pitch prestige projects.

After greenlighting “Mission: Impossible 3” (with a reduced budget) recently, Par is focusing on other tentpole projects: “Indiana Jones 4”; “The Chancellor Manuscript” with Leonardo DiCaprio; Tom Clancy‘s “Rainbow Six”; “Transformers” with Michael Bay directing and DreamWorks co-financing; and “Benjamin Button,” co-financed with Warner Bros.

The road for Berman and studio chairman Brad Grey may be less rocky in coming months, thanks to what looks like a powerful summer slate assembled by predecessors Sherry Lansing and Donald De Line — as often happens when regimes change.

“The Longest Yard” looks to gross $150 million domestically; “The War of the Worlds” is a contender to become the year’s top worldwide grosser; and “Bad News Bears” and “Hustle and Flow” have the potential to be sleeper hits.

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