Number of producer pacts lowest ever

Hollywood’s studios are home to fewer long-term producer deals than any time in recent history, and the landscape continues to evolve as DreamWorks, New Line and other companies realign.

According to Variety‘s latest Facts on Pacts survey, published in the Aug. 11-17 issue, studios have 180 producer pacts, the lowest tally in the 11-year survey.

The number of pacts dropped by 50 in the past three years alone, and more reductions could be on the way as studios continue to tighten their belts to please their corporate masters.

Warners has the most producer pacts at 37, and 10 more under its roof with New Line, followed by Universal at 29. Paramount and DreamWorks have 28 combined; Fox and Sony are tied with 24 each. The Mouse House has 22 pacts including Miramax, and the reconstituted MGM-United Artists trails behind with six.

More fallout is expected when DreamWorks departs Par and Warners fully digests New Line. Production slowdowns related to labor issues could also take a further toll.

Studios say they are simply trimming financial excesses at a time they are making fewer films. They still maintain lucrative relationships with power players and will continue to make new deals as projects arise.

But those in the middle zone are getting cut. Oscar winners and proven box office performers have been shut out of the studio gates recently, including Marshall Herskovitz, president of the Producers Guild of America.

Producers, Herskovitz included, argue that the inhouse producer plays an invaluable role in developing projects for studios. But studios counter that producers will still bring projects to them, so why pay all that coin in the meantime?

Indeed, studios have been cutting back on producer pacts for several years. The last time Variety‘s survey uncovered any gains was in November, 2003, when the number edged up by 17 pacts to 240. Six months later, it was holding steady, but the number of pacts has been headed downhill ever since.

Visit Variety.com/factsonpacts to view Variety‘s chart.

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