Jim Gianopulos Expected to Head Paramount Pictures; Michael De Luca May Oversee Film Division

Jim Gianopulos Michael De Luca

UPDATED: Viacom CEO Bob Bakish is expected to name Jim Gianopulos chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, in what would be a triumphant resurrection for the longtime entertainment veteran after he was unceremoniously dumped last June from his job atop 20th Century Fox, two sources told Variety.

Viacom is also heavily courting producer and former production executive Michael De Luca to be Gianopulos’ top lieutenant. The 51-year-old producer of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” films and, most recently, the 89th Academy Awards, would report to Gianopulos, who would likely name him vice chairman, if all goes as planned. De Luca would be tasked with strengthening Paramount’s relationships in the creative community and with developing sorely needed new franchises. Gianopulos is known for his strong management skills and has a firm grasp of the global entertainment business, having headed up the international operation of Fox for years, and deep knowledge of the technological forces that are reshaping the business.

Neither Gianopulos nor De Luca have been made formal offers yet, according to knowledgeable sources. Gianopulos, 65, has been in serious talks with Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda to head Legendary Entertainment, as it prepares for a massive expansion in the United States. Sources say that Wanda has assured Gianopulos it would invest hundreds of millions to build Legendary into a major production, marketing, and distribution machine.

A person close to De Luca stressed that he has not made a final decision about taking the job, even if offered.

Viacom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the eyes of many in Hollywood, Gianopulos would perfectly fit the bill as someone who could potentially turn around Paramount. He is already tempered by many seasons at the top of the Hollywood studio firmament and is an executive well-liked by his peers, by talent and by their agents who play a crucial role in determining which studios get the most sought-after projects.

De Luca previously served as president of production at Sony Pictures Entertainment. He left in 2015 to take a production deal at Universal Pictures, which allowed him continue making the lucrative “Fifty Shades” films, among other projects. Some people who know him said that he relishes the idea of returning to the top executive ranks at a studio. He divides his time between Fort Worth, Texas, where his family lives, and Los Angeles.

Paramount is in desperate need of new leadership. Gianopulos would take over the struggling studio from Brad Grey, who was ousted last month by Bakish after his 12-year tenure at the studio ended in a string of costly flops, declining production, and frayed relationships with important filmmakers and stars. Paramount has produced too few dependable franchises like the “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible” films, and has suffered a long string of failed experiments with sequels and remakes that include last year’s “Zoolander 2” and “Ben-Hur” and original films like “Allied” — starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard — that seemed badly out of step with the times.

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The former Fox studio boss would be responsible for turning around a Paramount operation that has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years and finished in the basement among the major studios in the domestic box office standings for five calendar years running. The studio that once released “Titanic” and “Braveheart” even slipped behind Lionsgate in two of those years.

If hired, it would also fall to Gianopulos and De Luca to lift the spirits on the Melrose Ave. studio lot. Insiders say Paramount has been directionless for much of the past year, as Shari Redstone and Viacom chief Philippe Dauman jockeyed for control. Redstone and her ailing father, media mogul Sumner Redstone, engineered the removal of Dauman. Bakish was named CEO of Viacom in December. The new Viacom boss soon signaled that he had little patience for the under-performance of Paramount, which the aged Redstone once considered a crown jewel of his media empire. Two months after taking Viacom’s top job, Bakish gave Grey the boot.

Brent Lang contributed to this report.

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  1. Practical Voice in the Hollywood Wilderness says:

    Here’s what Jim G needs to do:

    1) Develop 1-3 horror franchises. They’re cheap. De Luca knows horror, although does he know the current horror audience? We shall see.
    2) Buy or develop an in-house animation studio.
    3) Foster NEW talent/filmmaker deals. Tom Cruise ain’t enough to sustain a studio. Find talent under 40, give them money, you’d be amazed what they will do. You just might find the next JJ Abrams or Christopher Nolan. The next Matrix is out there, but you have to take a chance to get it. Look to TV for hot young visionaries.
    4) Avoid the old guard filmmakers like the plague. A lot of these old execs immediately sign their buddies who were huge 10-20 years ago but just don’t have the audience anymore. Zemeckis…Spielberg…Scorsese…they had their time in the sun and their audiences don’t show up at the multiplex on opening weekend anymore. They’re legends, but there’s a reason they’re working with smaller budgets now.
    5) Stop the reboots of old tv shows. We’ve had enough of 70s/80s TV shows made into movies. Just watch Baywatch and Chips bomb. You can look at the IP catalog for potential reboots, but think outside the box, and let the talent make the picks, not the suits. When it comes to comedy, ditch the old guard that’s now in their 40s and 50s (Rogan, Ferrell, Sandler, etc.), go younger.
    6) Sci-Fi Action, not Sci-Fi Drama.
    7) Superheroes.
    8) Women filmmakers making commercial thrillers and action for a female audience. You just may find the next Hunger Games or 50 Shades.

    Is that enough advice? Do it.

  2. Paul Brett says:

    Jimmy G. is the single most influential Studio Executive of all time. He turned cinema digital globally in 18 months flat Ito ensure that Avatar became the biggest film of all time – still.
    He is supreme in managing staff, talent and their agents – always on time and on budget. Ironically Fox’s concerns over Titanic gave Paramount its biggest windfall hit.
    He is a tireless philanthropist and a thoroughly nice Guy. The only job left that he would excel at would be as Head Honcho of The Olympics – if it were to be held permanently in Athens, Greece!

    • John says:

      Ture – Jim’s always a class act, he’s highly respected by his peers in the industry. Not only does Jim knows movie business domestically, he has more experience and better understanding of the international market than any Hollywood executives. Great hire by Bob Bakish – with Shari’s blessing. Even more so, a perfect homecoming for Jim. Couldn’t be happier for him.

  3. Nick Fredo says:

    Glad that Jim is not going to Sony…only because that may leave hope that Kaz is smarter than his support of Lynton would suggest…and he could bring back Steve Mosko to take over the studio. Lynton turned a thriving movie factory into a small city full of useless business analysts who produce nothing.

  4. harry georgatos says:

    All these power-brokers are recycled from studio to studio. It’s the boys own club and most people will give up one of their testicles to get in the inner circle.

  5. Tom says:

    Sony got Rothman and Paramount got Gianopulos.
    Point – Paramount.

  6. Brian says:

    Jim Gianopulos in particular would be great for Paramount. In my humble opinion, he has a better understanding than most on the way technology is continually changing the world of entertainment. I wish him good luck if that slot is indeed in his future.

  7. Coleman says:

    50 Shades of Grey is your calling card? What a joke. Gianaopulos would be good kick in the ass of that bloated beast.

  8. Tony Manne says:

    Paramount made CITIZEN KANE? Wonder what RKO would have to say about that. (And it only made half of TITANIC and BRAVEHEART.)

  9. Sam says:

    This is crazy! These guys all get fired by one studio and then end up a few months later at another. Where is the fresh minds? No wonder studios are losing out to the new guys. These old farts just keep getting recycled and have no idea what they are doing. Mark my words, 10 years from now, Netflix, Amazon, Lionsgate, and the like will dominate the film and TV market. Paramount, Sony, Fox will be downsizing and selling off half their operations.

    • Chris says:

      You obviously don’t know what are you writing about. Paramount, Fox, Warners, Disney, Sony and Universal are The Big Six, were The Big Six, AND WILL BE The Big Six of film industry, and no change of their leaders will unmake this fact from reality. They holds the brands, the franchises, they holds the biggest directors, the biggest movie stars are working for them. The likes of Netflix, Amazon and Lionsgate, no matter how many good movies they will manage to release, will never reach the same heighs. They simply won’t be allowed to.

      • DurkaJ says:

        Not that I completely disagree with you, but it’s naive to instantly dismiss new channels of distribution for content. Streaming from home IS the future of entertainment, be it on the TV or in a HMD. Until The Big Six actually get on board with developing tech, there’s a chance that someone else will come in and take them down a notch.

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