No. 44: MGM

Santa Monica, Calif.

Revenue: $1.14 billion

Profit: $51 million

The Lion in winter was mostly slumbering, but it sure doesn’t sleep tonight.

In fact, MGM is knee-deep into its biggest slate of movie releases in years, after effectively sitting out the previous holiday and summer box office seasons. But even that good news is offset a bit by the lingering notion the studio must secure distribution platforms beyond the local multiplex.

In April, MGM completed an $825 million deal to acquire a 20% stake in four cable channels operated by Cablevisions’ Rainbow Media. Lion chairman-CEO Alex Yemenidjian hopes the pact will lead to a broader relationship.

“Our investment in Rainbow is an opportunity to begin MGM’s vertical integration in a meaningful way,” Yemenidjian says, his fingers and toes no doubt mentally crossed for good luck.

Though no one doubts his desire to move the Lion into more than mere moviemaking, many say it’s unlikely the studio will substantially bolster skimpy TV and new-media operations that lack dedicated broadcast or cable outlets for its product.

Even the modest Rainbow deal required intervention from a higher power. Negotiations over a Cablevision-MGM partnership dragged on interminably until MGM majority owner Kirk Kerkorian rang up Cablevision topper Charles Dolan to suggest nailing down a smallish Rainbow investment to provide a starting point for possibly bigger things.

Still, MGM did post its first profitable year in its 77-year-history last year. And already this year, it’s bowed three films at No. 1, beginning with blockbuster sequel “Hannibal,” a co-production with Universal.

In June, MGM replaced longtime marketing and distribution prexies with a single exec, former Sony marketing boss Bob Levin. His first move was to resked the bow of John McTiernan’s “Rollerball” from August to early 2002.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • AtmosphereThe Current State of Play in

    New York’s PlayStation Theater to Close (EXCLUSIVE)

    New York’s PlayStation Theater, a 2,100-capacity venue located in Times Square and operated by Bowery Presents, will close at the end of 2019, a source close to the situation tells Variety. The venue will close with a New Year’s series of shows from the Disco Biscuits. The theater, which is located two stories beneath the [...]

  • Courtesy of Earwolf

    How Lauren Lapkus Tossed the Script and Created a Podcasting Hit

    Lauren Lapkus has tossed the script on what makes most podcasts a hit. At a time when many of the most downloaded shows are true crime investigations or celebrity interviews, she’s doing something entirely different on each episode of “With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus.” Each hour-long installment is a free-wheeling, completely improvised ride. One show [...]


    WWE's 'NXT' Moves to USA Network as Wrestling Competition Heats Up

    WWE has struck a deal to move its “NXT” franchise focusing on rising stars to USA Network starting next month. “NXT” will shift to USA from the WWE Network subscription streaming service as of Sept. 18. The deal comes as USA is about to lose WWE’s “SmackDown” showcase to Fox starting in October. USA is [...]

  • Shazam

    Apple Music Launches 'Shazam Discovery' Chart, Focused on New Artists

    Apple Music today launched the “Shazam Discovery Top 50,” a weekly, global ranking of 50 artists that it describes as “on the move and trending” — in other words, new and emerging artists. While the company wouldn’t say much specifically about how the chart is tabulated, it uses “Shazam’s proprietary algorithms [to offer] a unique predictive view [...]

  • The Chainsmokers Production Company

    Chainsmokers’ Catalog Acquired by Fast-Growing Hipgnosis Songs

    The Chainsmokers’ writer and publishing rights have been acquired by the fast-growing Hipgnosis Songs and its investment adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, for an undisclosed amount, the company announced today. The company has acquired 100% of the Chainsmokers’ interest in 32 of the duo’s songs, including ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) income in [...]

  • Hollywood Recession Business Placeholder

    How an Economic Downturn Could Ravage Hollywood

    Trade-war fears, stock market volatility and, most recently, bond market signals that point to a pending recession are rattling investors, igniting concerns that another devastating downturn may be just around the corner. As those worries reverberate all the way from Wall Street to Hollywood, the entertainment industry is in for an unsettling reminder of the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content