Two heads better than one at Fox

Rothman, Gianopulos enjoy 3rd record-breaking year

They were not expected to become Hollywood’s senior studio co-chairmen.

Tom Rothman, an animated, outsized ex-New York attorney known for rambunctious gesticulations; Jim Gianopulos, an affable but more restrained salesman who worked his way up through the international TV, video and film distrib ranks.

And yet, Rothman’s blustery passion and Gianopulos’ lower-key geniality have combined for a thriving symbiotic partnership: They’re enjoying a third straight record-breaking year sharing the helm of Twentieth Century Fox.

In this regard, they are an unlikely odd couple in an era that has long — probably too long — revered the single-minded visionary CEO who labors alone picking pictures.

Together, Rothman and Gianopulos are portfolio managers, relying on a team of key execs who develop, produce, market and distribute all of Fox’s movies.

The company’s big-budget fare has the benefit of two othersets of tastes: Hutch Parker at 20th Century Fox production and Elizabeth Gabler at Fox 2000 Pictures.

At Searchlight, an invention of Rothman, Peter Rice makes and acquires eclectic specialized movies — whose budgets are in the $15 million range.

Rothman may joke that the duo’s chief advantage is that “we can be in two places at once,” but he quickly adds, “It’s not a division of labor so much as a matter of shared expertise.”

Producers, agents and rivals agree. They note that half of the duo’s success comes from letting the partner expressing the stronger viewpoint carry the ball.

The other half of their success comes from providing a unified front to the town, regardless of whose opinion has prevailed.

One Fox producer notes that this avoids the mixed messages that co-toppers at other studios have sometimes sent to creative community.

“That’s when wires get crossed, as they did when Nina Jacobson and Todd Garner fought at Disney, or when Billy Gerber and Lorenzo di Bonaventura struggled at Warners.”

Says Gianopulos: “We like to compete with the rest of the world — not each other.”

Each is understood to supervise the projects he’s most interested and expert in.

In the last year, Rothman devoted much time to “Master and Commander” and “I, Robot”; Gianopulos handled action pics (read: big international market upside) “Day After Tomorrow” and “Alien Vs. Predator.”

Another Fox-based producer explains their success in starker terms: “Either these kind of arrangements really work, or they really don’t –this works.”

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