ViacomCBS Announces Leadership Transition, Business Split at Paramount Pictures

ViacomCBS is splitting Paramount Pictures into separate movie and TV production operating units, while also naming a new studio chief executive.

Jim Gianopulos, chairman/CEO of Paramount Pictures, will transition oversight of the venerable movie studio to newly named president/CEO Brian Robbins, who maintains his current responsibilities leading Nickelodeon. Gianopulos will serve in an advisory role at Paramount through the end of the year to help ensure a smooth transition.

Separately, Paramount Television Studios will now become part of the premium network group under the leadership of David Nevins, chairman/CEO of Showtime Networks, bringing together the divisions’ scripted content capabilities. Nicole Clemens will continue to lead PTVS in her capacity as president, PTVS, reporting directly to Nevins.

No other organizational changes with the studio were announced.

As part of this transition, and in line with ViacomCBS’s previously announced streaming content leadership structure, Robbins will assume oversight of movies produced for Paramount+, as well as continue to be responsible for kids and family content globally for the streaming service. Nevins and Clemens will also continue to serve in their current Paramount+ roles of chief content officer of scripted originals, and president of original scripted series, respectively.

“A passionate storyteller who takes a holistic view of the entertainment ecosystem, Brian is an expert at building powerhouse global franchises by leaning into the unique strengths of new and established platforms – including theatrical releases, streaming, linear, consumer products and more,” Bob Bakish, president/CEO of ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “With Brian drawing on his extensive experiences across animation and live action, and David overseeing Paramount Television Studios, we will build on Paramount’s incredible legacy and chart a new path for the studio.”

Bakish hailed Gianopulos as “a towering figure in Hollywood” who successfully led Paramount from the success of the “A Quiet Place” franchise to the Oscar-winning Rocketman, to Sonic the Hedgehog and Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

Gianopulos’s career in the global entertainment industry spans nearly 40 years. He took the reins of the studio in April 2017, revitalizing the studio and restoring profitability consistently throughout his tenure.

“Gianopulos has overseen the creation of films that have achieved both critical acclaim and commercial success,” Bakish said. “I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Jim for his leadership in establishing a revitalized Paramount.”

As President of Nickelodeon since October 2018, Robbins has overseen the evolution of content and franchises at one of the top entertainment brands for kids across theatrical, streaming and linear TV. Franchises such as “Paw Patrol” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reach hundreds of millions of young people around the world through TV shows, movies and consumer products, while SpongeBob SquarePants has become one of the most popular animated characters of all time.

Under Robbins’ leadership, Nickelodeon has become a driver of subscribers and engagement at Paramount+ since its launch in March 2021. Programming for young audiences, such as Paw Patrol: The Movie and the series and films in the “SpongeBob SquarePants” universe, account for a double-digit share of total streams, and the platform’s slate includes numerous highly anticipated releases from the likes of Nickelodeon’s Avatar Studios.

Prior to his appointment at Nickelodeon, Robbins served as president of Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Players division, where he worked closely with legacy-Viacom brands to identify talent and properties to be developed into co-branded feature films. Previously, Robbins co-founded the multiplatform media company Awesomeness in 2012 and served as its CEO. He also co-founded Tollin/Robbins Productions and was the Founder and president of Varsity Pictures.

Robbins has executive-produced numerous television and movie hits, including “Kenan and Kel” and “All That,” the latter of which Robbins adapted into the Nickelodeon feature film Good Burger; directed the Paramount films Varsity Blues and Hardball; executive produced “Blue Mountain State” for Spike TV (now Paramount Network); and also produced the television series “Smallville” and “One Tree Hill,” among others.

Robbins is the recipient of a Directors Guild Award, a Peabody Award and the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Pioneer Prize. He is also an Emmy Award nominee.

Prior to joining Paramount, Gianopulos served as the chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment from 2000 to September 2016. In this role, he was responsible for feature film production, marketing, and global distribution of film and television content in all media. During his time as Chairman and CEO of Fox, the studio had its most profitable years ever, and in 2014, 20th Century Fox broke the all-time industry global box-office record, earning more than $5.5 billion. Gianopulos also has the distinction of having championed two of the biggest film successes in history, Titanic and Avatar.

Paramount Set to Hand Studio Reins to Nickelodeon Boss Brian Robbins

Paramount Pictures reportedly plans to name Brian Robbins, president of kids and family entertainment for ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks, to run the famed studio — replacing Jim Gianopulos, who has headed Paramount since 2017. Gianopulos will assist in the transition, which is expected to announced next week.

Jim Gianopulos

First reported by The Wall Street Journal, the expected management change — at the behest of ViacomCBS chairman Sharri Redstone — comes as Paramount grapples with the ongoing pandemic, rollout of branded Paramount+ streaming service, licensing feature films to third-party SVOD platforms, and delaying theatrical releases of benchmark Tom Cruise titles Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7, among other issues.

The studio recently filed a $100 million lawsuit against the insurer of Mission: Impossible 7, alleging Federal Insurance Company has paid out just $5 million to cover talent losses associated with the movie’s production delays.

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Paramount Sets Dec. 8 Blu-ray Disc, Digital Release Date for New Edit, Restoration of ‘The Godfather Part III’

Paramount Home Entertainment has set a Dec. 8 date for the Blu-ray Disc and digital debut of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone — a new edit and restoration of The Godfather Part III.

The rebranded version of the third and final film in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” trilogy “achieves director-screenwriter Coppola and screenwriter Puzo’s original vision for the finale, which has been meticulously restored for the finest presentation of the Corleone saga’s last chapter,” the studio said in early September, when it first announced the project.

The 1990 release of the third film was maligned by critics as not living up to the standard set by the first two films in the franchise, which won the Oscar for Best Picture for the 1972 and 1974 movie years, respectively.

Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is an acknowledgment of Mario’s and my preferred title and our original intentions for what became The Godfather Part III,” Coppola said in a Sept. 3 statement. “For this version of the finale, I created a new beginning and ending, and rearranged some scenes, shots and music cues. With these changes and the restored footage and sound, to me, it is a more appropriate conclusion to The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, and I’m thankful to Jim Gianopulos and Paramount for allowing me to revisit it.”

The Blu-ray presentation will include the newly restored and re-edited film, an exclusive introduction by Coppola, and access to a digital copy of the film.

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Coppola’s three-part movie adaptation of Puzo’s novel chronicles the rise and fall of the Corleone mob family. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, The Godfather Part III was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film follows Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in his 60s as he seeks to free his family from crime and find a suitable successor to his empire.

Coppola and his production company American Zoetrope worked from a 4K scan of the original negative to undertake a frame-by-frame restoration of both the new Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone and the original The Godfather Part III. Zoetrope and Paramount’s restoration team began by searching for more than 50 original takes to replace lower-resolution opticals in the original negative. This process took more than six months and involved sifting through 300 cartons of negative.  American Zoetrope worked diligently to repair scratches, stains, and other anomalies that could not be addressed previously due to technology constraints, while enhancements were made to the original 5.1 audio mix. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, midway through the project all work — even the search for the negative — shifted to the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles and was completed remotely.

“Mr. Coppola oversaw every aspect of the restoration while working on the new edit, ensuring that the film not only looks and sounds pristine, but also meets his personal standards and directorial vision,” said Andrea Kalas, SVP of Paramount Archives.

On Rotten Tomatoes, The Godfather Part III has a 69% favorable rating from critics and a 78% favorable rating from audiences. This compares to 98% for The Godfather from both segments and 98% from critics and 97% from audiences for The Godfather Part II.

Paramount Mining TV Production Gold

Paramount Pictures is in the midst of a turnaround that pledges fiscal-year 2019 (ending Sept. 30) profitability for the first time since 2015.

While the vaunted studio improved first-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) operating income by $40 million — its eighth consecutive quarter of improvement — due the theatrical performance of Bumblebee and Instant Family, a key profit driver was television content production.

Television revenue in the quarter ballooned 84% year-over-year driven by the release of Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Berlin Station,” on Epix, the recent greenlight for a third season of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” on Amazon Prime Video, and production of Netflix series “Maniac” and “13 Reasons Why,”among others.

Studio boss Jim Gianopulos contends the agreement with Netflix and other streaming services replicates past industry practices around “movie-of-the-week” productions for broadcast TV.

“The difference, of course, is that the quality of these films is much higher, making these relationships even more valuable,” Gianopulos said last November when announcing an agreement with Netflix to produce original movies for the streaming service.

To Bob Bakish, CEO of corporate parent Viacom, Paramount’s renewed success underscores a case study driven by new management.

Speaking Feb. 26 at the Morgan Stanley technology, media & telecom confab in San Francisco, the executive’s comments coincided with the promotion of Dan Cohen to president of worldwide home entertainment & television distribution.

Cohen’s priority will be television production, a business Bakish said didn’t exist at Paramount four years ago. The unit generated $400 million in revenue in 2018 — and is expected to grow 50% to $600 million in 2019.

“It’s not about delivering shows, it’s about delivering hits,” Bakish said.