Overview: Paramount’s defining event of 2004 came on Election Day, when Kerry supporter Sherry Lansing announced that she was leaving the chairman’s slot after 12 years. Her move came five months after Viacom chief Sumner Redstone tapped longtime MTV head Tom Freston as Lansing’s new boss, a move that prompted Jon Dolgen to depart the next day. Freston then stunned the town New Year’s weekend by naming powerful talent manager Brad Grey to succeed Lansing. It’s a signal that Freston wants Par to aim younger and shed its image as the industry’s most cautious studio. “It’s a transition year,” notes vice chair Rob Friedman.
Winners and losers: A sense of humor was crucial as Par struggled for the fourth straight year. Only the comedies “Mean Girls,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Without a Paddle” and “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” met or topped expectations. “The Manchurian Candidate” performed respectably; disappointments included “The Stepford Wives,” “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Alfie” and “Team America.” “We loved our slate creatively but some of it didn’t connect with customers,” Friedman admits.
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Award prospects: Meryl Streep has a good shot at a 14th Oscar nomination for her scenery-chewing turn in “Manchurian Candidate”; Angela Lansbury copped a nom in 1962 for the same role in the original. The Mick Jagger-Dave Stewart songs from “Alfie” are likely to be noticed by Oscar voters. Paramount’s also got hopes for “Lemony Snicket” and “Collateral,” both co-financed with DreamWorks.
The year ahead: Summer looks solid with a pair of remakes — “The Longest Yard,” with Adam Sandler, and “War of the Worlds,” with Tom Cruise starring and Steven Spielberg directing. Sony’s co-financing “Longest Yard,” DreamWorks is partnered on “War of the Worlds.” Par has high hopes for Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy “Elizabethtown,” with Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom; a remake of “Bad News Bears,” with Billy Bob Thornton; and Nick’s CGI toon “The Barnyard.” Two key projects — MTV’s “Locked and Loaded,” starring 50 Cent and directed by Jim Sheridan, and an adaptation of Tom Clancy vidgame “Splinter Cell” — may be ready by year’s end.