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MGM names head of film production

Spyglass prexy Jonathan Glickman tapped by studio

After a year in limbo, MGM is revamping itself and prepping its slate.

The Lion tapped Spyglass president Jonathan Glickman as president of its motion picture group, filling the role vacated last fall by Mary Parent. The move, announced Wednesday, came in the wake of recent layoffs of about 30 employees as MGM followed through on plans to cut staff to about 320, a person with knowledge of the sitaution told Variety.

A studio spokeswoman declined to comment about the layoffs, expected to clear the way for other Spyglass staffers to join MGM.

Glickman’s appointment was widely expected. MGM toppers Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum — who founded Spyglass in 1998 and took over at MGM two months ago — praised their new hire in the announcement.

“Jonathan represents the best in the business,” the duo said. “We recognized his talent, taste and acumen when we first hired him 12 years ago at Spyglass and can’t wait to continue the journey with him here at MGM.”

Developments were the latest in the evolution of MGM since it filed for a pre-packaged bankruptcy in early November — which wiped out the massive $4 billion debt load that had brought MGM’s film operations to a standstill. MGM received a $500 million cash infusion in December and agreed in early January to swap the international distribution rights for “The Hobbit” with Warner Bros. in exchange for Warners funding MGM’s half of production costs of $265 million to $275 million.

It then announced on Jan. 11 that the 23rd Bond movie will be released on Nov. 9 of next year with production starting late this year. MGM has already been working up plans for a 2012 yearlong commemoration of the golden anniversary of the first Bond pic, 1962’s “Doctor No.”

MGM’s also in the process of deciding how to handle distribution and co-financing not just on the Bondpic, but on its entire slate.

Barber and Birnbaum are believed to have met with execs from other studios in recent weeks to make an overall deal. Speculation has centered on Sony, which co-financed “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace”; Paramount, due to that studio’s history with Spyglass; and Fox, which has handled MGM’s homevideo distribution.

It’s believed that MGM is also considering a late-summer release for its remake of “Red Dawn,” which has been in the can for more than a year due to studio’s profound financial problems, starring up-and-comer Chris Hemsworth. Key for the Lion is how to best time the release; should Paramount’s “Thor” become a blockbuster breakthrough for Hemsworth in May, MGM could reap a significant benefit by opening “Red Dawn” a few months later.

The remake of the 1984 film of the same title follows a group of teenagers who fight back when their hometown is invaded by an joint force of Chinese and Russian soldiers. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the leader of a U.S. Special Forces team who discovers the teens’ stronghold while behind enemy lines. Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson from Contrafilm are producing.

MGM’s also considering when and how to release Joss Whedon’s 3D horror pic, “Cabin in the Woods.”

Wednesday’s announcement said Glickman’s role at MGM includes oversight of development and production for all feature films, as well as helping to identify co-financing opportunities.

Glickman joined Spyglass in 1998 as president of production and was promoted in 2003 to president. His producing credits include “Four Christmases” and “27 Dresses,” and he was involved with co-financing “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “Star Trek,” and “Get Him to the Greek.”

Glickman exec produced “No Strings Attached,” which Paramount and Spyglass co-financed, and he’s producing romancer “The Vow,” starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum.

Glickman broke into the business in 1993 at Birnbaum’s Caravan Pictures and became president in 1997.

Parent, who had been chairman of MGM’s motion picture group and co-CEO, cleared out of her office in mid-October after two and a half years. MGM’s “Zookeeper,” starring Kevin James, was co-financed by Sony and will be out in July. The studio released only one movie — “Hot Tub Time Machine” — last year.

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