Mary Parent has finally stepped out on her own. In March, after 11 years working in tandem with Scott Stuber at Universal — as execs, co-prexies and later co-vice chairmen of Universal Pictures, and finally as studio producers — Parent took the solo reins as chairperson of the worldwide motion picture group at MGM.
Initially not interested in the MGM post, Parent was curious to meet MGM CEO Harry Sloan. Their first talk over the Christmas holiday lasted five hours. “He’s an impressive guy,” she says. “I hadn’t realized they had two Hobbit movies as well as James Bond. We have two triple-A franchises to build upon. Franchises become the lifeblood. If you try to rebuild the studios with one-offs, you can’t do it. It would be a scarier prospect without those assets. I thought, ‘If there was ever a time to turn this company around, this was the time.'”
Finally, Parent realized she would regret not pouncing on this once in a lifetime offer. “I could always go back to producing,” she says. “I would never have this opportunity again.”
Since she took the job in March, Parent has not looked back. COO Rick Sands is out. New marketing and distribution execs are in. “We’re transitioning from a third-party rent-a-system back into a production entity with a full-blown marketing team competitive with the best,” says Parent, who will also be releasing United Artists pics.
“There’s no way we’re flying out of the gates without adequate P&A. We will be making multiple tentpoles, with no budget caps of any kind. We have the money to make a one-size slate. I believe we are going to have the money to make an even bigger slate.”
Parent has moved decisively into production, acquiring 10 projects in the past three months, including Robert Ludlum’s “Matarese,” and dusted off some titles from the MGM treasure chest to jumpstart her 2009 slate with “RoboCop,” “Red Dawn,” “Pink Panther” and “Fame” remakes. “It’s a rich resource,” she says.
Parent’s first greenlight is writer-producer Joss Whedon’s “The Cabin in the Woods,” which marks “Lost” writer Drew Goddard’s directing debut.
“I feel like I’ve been here 30 years,” she says. “Time has flown. I tend to operate like failure is not an option. There is no room for error. The community, agencies, filmmakers and talent have been insanely supportive. Do I thrive on adrenaline? Absolutely. I will never be able to do this again.”
First steps: “We have two triple-A franchises to build upon. Franchises become the lifeblood. If you try to rebuild the studios with one-offs, you can’t do it. It would be a scarier prospect without those assets. I thought, ‘If there was ever a time to turn this company around, this was the time.'”