Around 50 people, roughly 7% of MGM’s 750-person workforce, was eliminated on Friday, insiders said. The cuts impacted the entire operation, including scripted and unscripted television and feature film departments.
UAR, the joint distribution venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures, has deferred employment for one-third of its staff of 80. Senior management at both companies will also take salary reductions. Like many distribution shops, UAR employees cannot perform basic job duties while movie releases are delayed and theaters remain closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the face of these global economic and industry business challenges, we have undertaken certain actions to mitigate the current financial impact on our business and to ensure MGM is well positioned for the future,” the company’s senior management said Friday in a memo, obtained by Variety. “Unfortunately, these changes necessitate some permanent reductions of our workforce. All impacted employees have been notified.”
MGM was forced to shoulder substantial financial losses when it pulled the James Bond film “No Time to Die” just weeks before a scheduled April release. The studio postponed the film until November due to the coronavirus outbreak, but marketing and publicity spending was already in motion when the decision was made. One studio insider said MGM’s liquidity has nothing to do with Friday’s layoffs, and that the money faucet to promote Bond was turned off just before the bulk was spent. The company will take an incremental loss of $30 million, when all is said and done, in promoting the Daniel Craig-led project.
Some UAR employees are expected to come back by the summer, when the operation plans to release the Keanu Reeves film “Bill & Ted Face the Music.” They join many others in Hollywood attempting to ride out the economic havoc caused by COVID-19.
MGM was the first studio to move a major film release, even before coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 19. “No Time to Die” was originally set for April 10, and has been pushed back until Nov. 25, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Following “Bill & Ted,” the studio is set to release Jordan Peele’s reimagining of the horror film “Candyman” and Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” in December. MGM’s TV business, shepherded by power producer Mark Burnett, counts some of the most successful programs on the air — “Survivor,” “Shark Tank” and “Beat Shazaam” to name a few.
Cuts at companies similar in size and profile to MGM have come down in the past two weeks. Annapurna Pictures laid off its chief financial officer James Pong, four creative executives in film and TV, and staff at the assistant level on Monday. Two weeks ago, Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions laid off assistants and coordinators and announced pay cuts for senior leadership.
All major talent agencies have either reduced staff or slashed pay, or both. The Walt Disney Company has been hit hardest among the major studios, furloughing tens of thousands of parks employees and many others in corporate and studio divisions.
Read the full memo from MGM leadership:
We are writing today to provide an update on MGM’s response to COVID-19 and the steps we are taking to address the current challenges facing our industry and to ensure the continued strength of our company. Our priority remains the health and well-being of the employees, talent and critical support staff who together produce and distribute MGM’s exceptional content.
While MGM remains in a strong position overall, the extraordinary events related to the global pandemic have impacted our entire industry, with virtually all global productions currently on hold and film releases delayed. The most difficult part of this situation from a business perspective, as you can imagine, is that we do not know when this will change.
In the face of these global economic and industry business challenges, we have undertaken certain actions to mitigate the current financial impact on our business and to ensure MGM is well positioned for the future. To that end, we are reconfiguring certain divisions of the studio to allow MGM to operate more effectively in a changing media landscape, both during this pandemic, and beyond. Unfortunately, these changes necessitate some permanent reductions of our workforce. All impacted employees have been notified.
The MGM senior management team have taken voluntary pay reductions across all divisions of the company.
Please know that we did not make these decisions lightly. We are deeply grateful to our friends and colleagues for their contributions to the studio and are working to support them with this transition.
We remain committed to facing these challenging circumstances together and are confident MGM will emerge stronger on the other side. Our content is performing extremely well and our library, one of Hollywood’s largest, is as valuable and as productive as ever both in the U.S. and abroad. MGM will continue to operate our business for long term success.
Thank you to everyone in the MGM family during this ever-changing situation and to all those who continue to successfully manage our global operations under incredibly difficult conditions.
Stay safe and well,