UPDATE: And Then There Will Be None…
Hollywood is agog over Disney movie move: Nina Jacobson out. Oren Aviv in. I’m told that Jacobson, prez of the Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, was under big pressure from corporate as part of the so-called “Iger strategy” to slash and burn the movie division. “The studio is undergoing a major reorganization, and there simply isn’t room for everyone in the new structure,” Jacobson, who’s liked and respected around Hollywood, said in a statement. Of course, Jacobson’s axing is buried in the official Disney press release, which leads off with Dick Cook, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios, announcing today “a strategic shift toward more Disney branded movies. The studio will produce and distribute approximately 10 Disney live-action and animated films a year and two to three Touchstone films a year.” But Hollywood is shocked — not to mention puzzled — that Disney made this major personnel change on the heels of the huge success of Pirates 2 and Narnia.
Aviv will now be president of production for Walt Disney Pictures, his second promotion in 15 months: in April 2005, he was upped to president of marketing and chief creative officer of Walt Disney Studios. (I’m told that the uber-ambitious Aviv, a previous president of marketing for Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, helped set the stage for his ascent by telling Disney a while ago that Paramount’s Brad Grey had offered him a big position.) Touted as a key player in “redefining and growing” the Disney, Touchstone and Miramax brands who also “conceived and realized on film the winning, original idea for National Treasure,” he was said to have marketed thirty-four $100 million dollar films as well as thirteen $200 million dollar films — “…an industry record.” So now that makes two marketing guys in charge: Aviv and Cook. Talk about irony, Jacobson’s ouster comes just when M. Night Shyamalan has been reported complaining how she wouldn’t greenlight his Lady in the Water. Well, the buzz is that Warner Bros. film opening this weekend is a bomb. Which makes Nina look really smart. Here’s the rest of her statement today: “I love the company and it has been a great honor to be part of building the Walt Disney brand. I’ve had the opportunity to work on films that I love, with filmmakers I admire and colleagues I adore. I’m sorry to go but I am proud of what I’ve left behind, a vibrant movie studio with major franchises and thriving relationships with some of the most talented filmmakers in the world.” Mercifully, it contains no “I’m leaving to spend more time with my family” nonsense.
Here’s the Disney corporate press release if you don’t mind being bored.