Ron Meyer has always championed a consistent corporate culture and a healthy, tension-free work environment. Lucky for him, Meyer’s latest boss likes what he sees at Universal.
The ultimate Hollywood survivor, Meyer — who’s now weathered four owners and eight bosses in his 16 years as prexy and chief operating officer of Universal Studios — has reupped his contract through 2015, NBCUniversal announced Monday. New pact comes as a vote of confidence at a time when U’s box office perf is in the midst of a conspicuous uptick. He continues to report to Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal.
Meyer is by far the longest-tenured studio president currently in his position, which he’s occupied since August 1995 when he was lured from his post as president of CAA (which he co-founded in 1975). He’s seen both good times and bad, though lately U has basked in a string of successess includ-ing “Fast Five,” “Bridesmaids” and “Hop,” all of which passed the $100 million mark domestically.
Insiders stressed that the Comcast brass is not a tentative bunch; if they weren’t happy with how things were going at their new movie division, a change would have been made. And in fact, the speculation when Comcast took over was that Meyer and his team were vulnerable, especially after a meager 2010 at the box office.
But sources tell Variety that in fact, Meyer was never in real danger — and that most of the speculation was just that. Comcast has been happy with Meyer’s smooth steering of U, a priority he made clear in 2009 by the letting go of studio heads Marc Shmuger and David Linde, largely because of the kind of infighting and bickering that Meyer won’t tolerate. His replacements, Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley, have brought a healthier atmosphere to the studio, insiders say, and one that Comcast sees fit to preserve.
Meyer has also acquitted himself well by maintaining and forging relationships that will be essential to Universal’s future, including deals with such players such as Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment and Marc Platt’s Marc Platt Prods., and more recent pacts with power players such as Judd Apatow’s Apatow Prods. and Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment shingle.
Meyer’s signing also comes as U’s theme park biz is enjoying increased attendance. Company’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla., celebrated the first anniversary of the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this month, which boosted ticket sales by nearly 31% last year. Addition also helped increase revenue by 16% during the first quarter of 2011, signaling just how important Potter will continue to be for U’s tourist industry this summer. The parks there also will see the addition of new attractions, based on Illumination Entertainment’s “Despicable Me,” next year.
Meyer also oversaw the rebuilding of Universal Studios’ backlot following a fire in 2008 that led to the addition of the re-tooled “King Kong” attraction.
NBCU wound up purchasing the remaining 50% share of Universal’s theme park operations in Florida it didn’t own from the Blackstone Group, for $1 billion, also this month. The parks in operation there include Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and CityWalk.