MGM: Next generation under way

Day One of MGM/UA’s Mancuso Era began quietly. Alan Ladd Jr.’s top staff remained intact, sources said, as the new chairman and a small entourage came and went from the executive fifth floor of the company’s Santa Monica headquarters Monday.

Wall Street analysts viewed Frank Mancuso’s challenge to turn the studio around as formidable. They said recent industry consolidations like the Disney/Miramax marriage have made the releasing race tighter than when the former Paramount topper piloted ’80s hits “Top Gun” and “Fatal Attraction.”

Although Mancuso is a proven player in distibution, PaineWebber analyst Chris Dixon said, he’ll need executive talent who are plugged into the creative community.

Mancuso is in fact widely expected to shop around for two production exex to head the MGM and UA shingles, since his strength mainly lies in marketing and distribution.

Sources said Mancuso and his representatives have already made phone calls to key candidates for these jobs. A couple of them asked to have their names removed from consideration, citing the precarious nature of studio jobs.

Monday meets

Mancuso reportedly took a casual morning round of initial meetings with Ladd-appointed MGM exex like production chairman and chief operating officer Jay Kanter, senior production VP David Ladd and prexy Charles Meeker, who entered with former co-chairman Dennis C. Stanfill. None returned calls.

Alan Ladd Jr. was let go from his position as chairman Sunday after a heated board meeting at the Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles.

The mood Monday in the barely lived-in building at 2500 Broadway in Santa Monica was calm, if tense, as people went on silently with their work, waiting for further developments from their new boss. As of late Monday p.m., all they had gotten was the same Mancuso-penned letter the press received Sunday.

“It’s just business as usual,” echoed several staffers, who were seen whisking in and out of creative meetings. However, one later elaborated that “in this economy, if you think anything’s gonna last forever, you need an attitude adjustment.” Others sat tight as they fielded concerned incoming calls from friends and biz contacts.

Alan Ladd Jr., whose attorney Alan Susman is expected shortly to release a statement saying Ladd was let go by the new management “without cause,” was not available for comment on his plans.

Company sources said Mancuso had not met with the entire MGM production group , but that Kanter had instructed exex on Monday morning to “go on with the work and keepmaking movies.” Other sources said separate meetings with the business affairs, distribution and production arms will take place “within the next couple of days.”

Projecting daylight

This likely means current productions like “Blown Away,””Getting Even With Dad” and “My Summer Story” will see the light of day regardless of any executive shuffle.

Other sources said Mancuso met with the MGM human resources staff, but the outcome of that powwow was unclear.

Mancuso is a meticulously polite, well-groomed man who nevertheless grew increasingly frustrated toward the end of his Par reign as day-to-day pressures and friction with Par management mounted, sources said.

Though Mancuso’s way up the corporate ladder on the distrib side was bolstered by sound choices, sources said his production palette was mixed, including disparate releases like “Harlem Nights,””Another 48 HRS.” and “The Two Jakes.” Big hits under his regime include “The Untouchables” and the “Star Trek” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” sequels.

Agencies rethink

Before exiting Par in March 1991, sources said, Mancuso also caught some flak for giving Frank Jr. a production deal with the studio. Mancuso himself filed a $ 45 million lawsuit against Par for breach of contract, which was later quietly settled.

Sources said major talent agencies in town, which have been reluctant to bring their talent and material to the old MGM, now seem willing to give the new shop a second chance.

Mancuso’s office did not return calls.

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