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Oren Aviv ousted at Disney

Studio's head of production exits in Rich Ross' latest shuffle

Dick Cook’s fingerprints continue to be wiped away at the Mouse House.

The sudden resignation of Oren Aviv as president of production at the Walt Disney Studios on Tuesday is the latest move by its new chairman Rich Ross to quickly put his own imprint on the company moving forward.

Outside of Chuck Viane, who still oversees theatrical distribution, Aviv was the only remaining top executive to still have his post after Ross took control of the studio last October.

In November, Ross reorganized the studio’s marketing, distribution and operation ranks, following the removal of Daniel Battsek as the head of Miramax Films. Aviv’s departure means he is now in search of a new production head; he also still needs to fill the top marketing post, vacated by the ouster of Jim Gallagher.

Sources at the studio say Jason Reed, a highly regarded senior executive at the studio who has worked on many of Disney’s franchises, is a likely candidate for Aviv’s job, while Ross is considering several others outside of Hollywood for the marketing post, although names like Amy Powell, currently senior VP of interactive marketing at Paramount Pictures, are said to be considered.

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Aviv had served as president of production since 2006. Before that he spent six years as the studio’s head of marketing.

His promotion to production chief came at a time when studios started giving marketing mavens more control over their slates, believing that they would choose projects that would be easy sells to moviegoers.

I have loved every day that I have been at the studio and feel incredibly privileged to have been part of a team that enriched my life for 20 years,” Aviv said in a statement. “I will miss all the amazing filmmakers, the many talented actors and most importantly the lifelong friends I’ve been so lucky to work with throughout my Disney career.

I’m proud of the hundreds of movies I’ve helped to make and market, especially the studio’s upcoming films, from ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and ‘Prince of Persia’ to ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ and ‘Tron.’ All have been extremely rewarding creative and personal endeavors for me, and have allowed me to work with the best group of executives and staff in the business. I wish Disney, Bob Iger, Rich Ross and their new teams great success for many years to come.”

Those who have worked closely with Ross said they are not surprised at all of the recent changes at Disney over the last few months.

They consider Ross a very fast decision maker who is only eager to put his executive team in place and start greenlighting movies.

A month after taking charge in October, Ross sent Daniel Battsek packing from Miramax Films, and reorganized the studio’s marketing, distribution and operations ranks, upping homevideo chief Bob Chapek to president of distribution, tapping Pixar-vet Greg Bradeau as chief technology officer, and pushing out Gallagher as head of marketing. Alan Bergman, president of the Walt Disney Studios, was also given additional oversight of the studio’s franchises, post production, Disneynature and the Muppets Studio at the time, while Aviv was also given oversight of physical production.

But Aviv’s days may have already been numbered.

He had to take much of the blame for Disney’s recent string of box office disappointments and failures like “Bedtime Stories,” “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” “Race to Witch Mountain,” “G-Force,” “Surrogates” and “Old Dogs,” some of which had triggered the ouster of Dick Cook last September. “The Proposal” and Pixar’s “Up” were much-needed bright spots.

While Aviv had shepherded franchises like “The Pirates of the Caribbean” and successfully launched ones he’d personally developed like “National Treasure” as a new vehicle for the studio — both have new sequels in the works — he had also chosen the studio’s string of poor performers.

Aviv had been moving forward with pics like the McG-helmed “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” a sequel to “Wild Hogs” and “Wedding Banned,” with Robin Williams and Anna Faris attached to star. But Ross recently pulled the plug on all of those projects.

In October, Aviv picked up the comedy “What’s He Got?” as the first project under the Rich Ross regime. Josh Duhamel is attached to star and Walt Becker (“Wild Hogs”) is producing and may direct. And in November, the exec tried to find a “Twilight” for the studio, and brokered a deal for “Fallen,” about teenage angels, based on the book series that hit shelves that month.

But they weren’t enough to keep Aviv on the lot.

Oren’s significant contributions to the Walt Disney Studios are well-documented and countless moviegoers have been entertained by his diverse portfolio of films,” Ross said. “We appreciate his work and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

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