Jim Gianopulos is leaving Paramount as Chairman and CEO, Deadline has confirmed. A report in the Wall Street Journal said Brian Robbins, the head of ViacomCBS Inc.’s Nickelodeon kids TV empire, will take over Gianopulos’ position as the head of Paramount Pictures. His appointment is imminent. Robbins, who goes from the star of Head of the Class to head of Paramount, is a bright and progressive executive who will likely lead Paramount to greater emphasis on product for its streaming service.
Gianopulos, 69, took the reigns of Paramount in March 2017 after a long run at Fox where he oversaw 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, Fox 2000, Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios, Fox International Productions and Fox Home Entertainment. During his time at Fox, he oversaw the release of James Cameron’s multi-Oscar winning Titanic and Avatar which combined made over $5 billion WW. Gianopulos arrived at Paramount after the 11-year tenure of Brad Grey and Rob Moore, latter of whom served as Vice Chairman and departed in Sept. 2016. Gianopulos arrived at a Melrose lot that was in tatters from a previous administration that once had distribution rights to the Marvel hits Kevin Feige was churning out, only to see that deal walk when topper Philippe Daumann declined to buy Marvel, the deal that transformed Disney. Paramount also let get away Indiana Jones and its relationship with Lucasfilm, and the studio bought DreamWorks only to see clashes lead to Paramount dropping that.
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When Gianopulos came in, the hope was he would do for Paramount what Alan Horn brought to Disney, which was to bring calm and cohesion as the studio tried to move past blemishes such as the expensive Monster Trucks and Ben-Hur and fast-fatiguing franchises such as Star Trek and Transformers. It would be a time of rebuild for Gianopulos. A bright spot for the Chairman and CEO is that coming out of the pandemic, Paramount was the only major studio to see an uptick in their summer grosses this year vs. 2019 with $220.6M, +17% thanks to A Quiet Place Part II. The year before the exec known in Hollywood as Jim G came in, the studio lost $450 million. This year is heading toward significant profit, a swing of over $850 million. Gianopulos built a strong exec team including Emma Watts, Marc Weinstock, Mary Daily and Nicole Clemens. Paramount TV built up to 20+ shows in production/on air, including 13 Reasons Why, Jack Ryan, Defending Jacob, with upcoming series including The Offer and American Gigolo for Paramount+ and Showtime. An overall deal with Yellowstone‘s Taylor Sheridan will yield a bounty of shows for the streaming service, including the prequel 1883 and the Jeremy Renner-starrer Mayor of Kingstown. On the film side, franchises have been solidified with A Quiet Place making money and more sequels, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mission: Impossible and Top Gun, and a repositioning of the Transformers with Bumblebee, a recovery from its money losing predecessor. It also reestablished Paramount Animation with the SpongeBob movie and Paw Patrol. He also made profitable third party streaming deals during the pandemic on Without Remorse, Coming 2 America, and established short windows for Paramount+ on the animated films.
There had been rumors about Gianopulos for awhile, and word was it had to do with his emphasis on filmmaker relationship and reverence for theatrical. Word was Shari Redstone wasn’t thrilled with the move of Top Gun: Maverick from November 19 to Memorial Day weekend 2022, and Mission: Impossible from Memorial Day to September 30, 2022. This was right before the Marvel film Shang-Chi became a surprise Labor Day box office record success. However, it was not just Top Gun: Maverick that fled this year’s Paramount release slate, but Clifford the Big Red Dog and Jackass Forever. The delay of such revenue generating events is a hard thing to stomach. Sources tells us that Redstone wanted films like A Quiet Place Part II and the Cruise pictures to go on Paramount+. That would have created lawsuits with Cruise and others, but we’re told that Gianopulos did what he was asked to do.
At the same time, all these moves occurred in the wake of Paramount failing to reignite the G.I. Joe franchise with Snake Eyes, a theatrical windowed released, that died with $37M WW. Robbins was known to have the ear of Redstone, and she sparked to his vision of the studio’s future. Few are shocked here by Robbins’ ascension. He will continue to run Nickelodeon, and Kids and Family Entertainment for the studio and Paramount+.
The change atop Paramount comes during a period of flux for ViacomCBS. After Viacom and CBS reunited in December 2019, the company has joined its peers in focusing on a pivot from traditional businesses to direct-to-consumer streaming. Paramount+, a rebranded and expanded version of CBS All Access, went live last March.
Rumors have swirled about ViacomCBS merging with another top-tier media company — potentially Comcast — because of the surging M&A market. But the legacy assets of the company, particularly CBS and its stations, could pose regulatory challenges. Recognizing the tall task of reaching global scale in streaming, ViacomCBS and Comcast a month ago unveiled a joint streaming venture, SkyShowtime, targeting Europe.
Robbins was the star of Head of the Class and has always been looked at as an innovative, progressive executive and producer. His oversight at ViacomCBS includes all strategy, creative and business operations for the company’s kids and young-adult focused brands including Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Nick Jr., TeenNick, Nicktoons, Nickelodeon Studios and Awesomeness.
It is expected that Gianopulos will stay aboard to assist with the transition of the leadership team.
The question is what this means for Emma Watts, President of Paramount’s Motion Picture Group. She has stayed close with Jeff Shell at Universal in recent times. Will she head there? Sources believe Apple, who has talked with executives of late, might give her a call.
We’ll update you with details soon.
Justin Kroll and Dade Hayes contributed to this article.