Viacom Is in Talks With Former Fox Executive to Lead Paramount

Jim Gianopulos.

Photographer: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Turner

Viacom Inc. is in talks with former 20th Century Fox studio chief Jim Gianopulos to run its Paramount Pictures unit and with Oscar-nominated producer Michael De Luca to become his second-in-command, people familiar with the situation said.

Gianopulos is being considered to run the film and fledgling TV operations of the studio, which produced “Mission: Impossible” and “Transformers,” but no deal has been struck yet with either executive, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are private. The talks could still fall apart, the people said.

Paramount and Viacom declined to comment. Variety reported earlier that Paramount was homing in on hiring Gianopulos and De Luca.

Viacom has been looking for new leaders to repair a studio coming off a disastrous year in which it lost money and finished last among its peers in box office market share. The company ousted Brad Grey last month, not long after he dismissed his top lieutenant, Rob Moore. The new hires are part of Viacom Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish’s plan to revamp the company’s flagging entertainment businesses.

At an investor conference Tuesday, Bakish said that the company was “well along’’ in the hiring process at Paramount. The new management will need to rebuild the studio’s film slate for years to come. Besides long-in-the-works sequels and spinoffs this year and next for “Mission: Impossible” and “Transformers,” there is very little scheduled for release for 2019 and beyond, according to Box Office Mojo. The studio’s bombs over the past year included “Monster Trucks” and “Ben-Hur.”

Bakish plans to devote about half of Paramount’s movie slate to projects based on TV series from cable networks like Nickelodeon and MTV. Stars of some of Viacom’s biggest shows, like comedians Amy Schumer and Jordan Peele, have gone off to make movies for other studios instead, to Bakish’s chagrin.

Veteran film executive Gianopulos, 64, was one of the industry’s longest-running studio chiefs when he left 20th Century Fox last September. He’s known for rolling the dice on two films that today still rank as Hollywood’s biggest-ever movies: “Titanic” and “Avatar.” He spent 25 years at Fox, including 16 as chairman in charge of all film production, marketing and global distribution of film and TV content. He was replaced by Stacey Snider on Sept 1.

De Luca has been co-producing the hit “Fifty Shades of Grey” film franchise at Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures. He was previously head of production at Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures and at DreamWorks SKG and was chief operating officer at New Line Cinema, where he started his film career. He was nominated three times as a producer of the Oscar for best picture, for “Captain Phillips,” “Moneyball” and “The Social Network.”

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