Backed up by a plethora of stars and a half-finished product reel, Paramount brass presented an optimistic face at a dinner Wednesday highlighted by surprise guest George Lucas presenting the NATO/ShoWest box office star of the century award to Harrison Ford.
But apart from many thinly veiled references to the studio’s past and impending managementshuffles, Viacom topper and new Par boss Redstone was the most direct in his assessment of the Melrose lot’s future.
Smiling at Par motion picture group chairman Sherry Lansing, who has just spoken of the end of the five months’ bidding “turmoil,” Redstone vowed that “the turmoil has just begun.”
Without detailing specifically what exec combos he might choose, Redstone lauded Par product. “You may have read in the press about synergy, but when I was (on the lot recently), I was staggered by business op-portunities we never knew existed,” he said.
A predictable absence
As expected, Paramount Communications president Stanley Jaffe was absent from a dais that included Viacom Intl. prexy Frank Biondi, Blockbuster chairman H. Wayne Huizenga and Par motion picture group prexy Barry London. Redstone has said Jaffe will be replaced (Daily Variety, March 3).
Addressing his exhib colleagues, Redstone sounded triumphant when he said: “All these years, I fought like hell for (you) guys to make the best film deal, and I never got respect. This is the first time that an exhibitor — one of us — became one of them: the studios.” The mogul from Massachusetts, whose National Amusements Inc. exhib chain came to be the majority shareholder in Viacom, also had a few digs left over for “my ex-billion dollar friend Barry Diller. He lost. We won. Let’s get on with it.”
Fond of Ford
The biggest crowd-pleaser came before the reel, as “Star Wars” creator Lucas presented Ford with his NATO/ShoWest nod as star of the century, a ceremony marked by numerous standing ovations. “There’s no actor I’d rather work with,” an emotional Lucas concluded.
After a short reel presenting Ford’s filmography, the star mused: “I just saw my whole life flashing in front of my eyes. Am I dead? If I am, this confirms my worst fear: Heaven is just like Las Vegas.”
Ford went on to thank Lucas and Steven Spielberg who gave him early breaks in “American Graffiti,” and the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” trilogies. The thesp described the mood at Paramount as “a congenial atmosphere, regardless of who’s minding the store.”
Lansing, who referred to last year’s ShoWest when “the cupboard was bare,” introduced the product reel by stressing Paramount’s tenacity through the media blitz.
“We stand before you as the new Paramount,” said the Par motion picture group chairman. “The turmoil is over and we’re looking forward to our new future.” She also applauded her development and production staff. “Despite people talking about a state of paralysis,” she said, “we never took our eyes off the ball; we just continued making movies.”
But even with a feature output climbing from 15 in ’93 to about 20 this year, the product reel showed what many exhibs felt was the real result of the Par bidding war: Despite several potential blockbusters, almost half the product was not ready to show even a teaser.
The Ford actioner “Clear and Present Danger” looked huge to most exhibs, who also gave roaring applause to “Star Trek Generations.”
Another property that found favor with exhibs was “Forrest Gump,” which stars Tom Hanks as an idiot savant who ends up on combat duty in Vietnam.
Other Par product featured included “Beverly Hills Cop 3,””Lassie,””Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult,” Barry Levinson’s “Jimmy Hollywood,””Milk Money, “”Pontiac Moon,” Paul Newman starrer “Nobody’s Fool” and the jungle thriller “Congo.”
Par product that wasn’t ready to show clips includes “Drop Zone,””I.Q., “”Losing Isaiah,””The Phantom,””The Saint,” a new Eddie Murphy project titled “Vampire in Brooklyn,””India in the Cupboard,””The Ghost and the Darkness, “”Braveheart” and “The Evening Star.”
A remake of the “Mission: Impossible” TV series starring Tom Cruise (Daily Variety, Dec. 1, 1993) is skedded for 1995 rollout.