"Why'd they make her the scapegoat?" asked one of so many talent agents I spoke with today.
"How does he escape?" asked another ten-percenter.
The 'she' and 'he' above refer to Brad Grey and Gail Berman, respectively. My namesake at the Los Angeles Times, Claudia Eller, got the scoop today on Paramount CEO Brad Grey's jettisoning of his president, the acid-tongued Berman, who'd previously only worked in television at the head of Fox Broadcasting, and as a Broadway producer.
But even with Gail gone, (and per Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood, not likely to be replaced,) Paramount, and Brad Grey, still have big problems. Last year was a lean year; "Mission: impossible 3" underperformed, and while the studio had modest successes in "Nacho Libre" and "World Trade Center," Berman's influence was never truly felt, (aside from the put-into-turnaround "Let's Go to Prison," released by Universal.)
More, Paramount is releasing only six movies for the rest of 2007, relying on DreamWorks Pictures and specialty division Paramount Vantage for the rest. DreamWorks head of production Stacey Snider has privately told colleagues she has no interest in doing the same job at Paramount that she did at Universal Pictures.
It reminds me of that old joke about the studio chief who, upon arriving at his new job, is given three envelopes by his predecessor:
"Open the first when you're in a jam; open the second when it's really bad, and the third when you're totally out of options," says the outgoing studio head.
Months fly by, and the first few movies bomb. The beleaguered new studio chief opens the first letter. It simply says, "Fire your marketing guy." A few months and a few more turkeys later, the studio chief opens the second letter. It reads, "Fire your production president." Finally, things are looking really bleak. He opens the third envelope: "Write three letters..."