Parkes, MacDonald strike out on their own

After more than a decade as co-heads of DreamWorks Pictures, Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald have segued into a production shingle, Parkes-MacDonald Prods., and have hired two execs to manage the Santa Monica-based company.

Parkes-MacDonald will be based at DreamWorks and supply the studio with two to four films per year.

The husband-and-wife team will still continue to play a prominent role at the studio by advising on various creative and marketing matters.

Aditya Sood, former VP of production at Warner Bros., and Alisa Tager, previously a production exec for Barry Mendel Prods., have been hired as execs at the new company.

Parkes and MacDonald’s shift in roles has been under way for months and was first disclosed last fall (Daily Variety, Oct. 28).

David Geffen, meanwhile, has been assuming a more involved role at the studio. Geffen, long the more behind-the-scenes, dealmaking guru at DreamWorks, hasn’t been seen in a day-to-day, hands-on role since his days as a music mogul.

As studio heads, Parkes and MacDonald remained producers (and exec producers), and their credits include “Gladiator,” “Men in Black,” “Catch Me if You Can” and “Minority Report.”

As Parkes and MacDonald shift into full-time producing mode, their slate remains as ambitious as ever. It includes high-profile pics such as this summer’s “The Island,” directed by Michael Bay; “Just Like Heaven,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo; and for Sony, “The Legend of Zorro,” which reunites Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas.

“It’s no secret that we have wanted to refocus our energies toward producing for some time, but three conditions had to be met before we felt comfortable with the formal shift,” Parkes said in a statement. “First, we wanted the company to be in strong financial shape, which is certainly true after a strong year in 2004 and the splitting off of animation. Second, we wanted there to be a strong slate of films, which we feel is the case for 2005 and 2006. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, we wanted to feel secure about who would be picking up the reins of the day-to-day running of the studio.”

Production prexy Adam Goodman has taken over that role, along with his creative staff.

As heads of the studio since 1994, when DreamWorks was founded, Parkes and MacDonald were responsible for the development and production of the company’s film slate.

Under their leadership the studio made a name for itself as a producer of prestige pics, including “American Beauty,” “Gladiator” and “A Beautiful Mind” — which won consecutive best picture Oscars (the latter two in partnership with Universal) — along with “Saving Private Ryan,” “Almost Famous” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”

Prior to joining Warner Bros., Sood worked for Mark Johnson Prods., first as an assistant to then-president Elizabeth Cantillon, then as story editor. At Warner he was involved in the production and development of “Cats and Dogs,” “White Oleander” and “Looney Tunes: Back in Action.”

Tager’s credits while working for Barry Mendel include exec producing Joss Whedon’s pic “Serenity,” the Jean-Jacques Annaud film “Enemy at the Gates” and Sergei Bodrov’s “Running Free.”

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