So I exhaustingly spend the entire night working, and finally go to sleep in the wee hours, and I wake up late to rudely find out that Tom Cruise will run United Artists? Am I still dreaming? My first thought is that this may be the vanity deal to end all vanity deals. Years ago, it seemed big when Kevin Costner got a hot tub in his offices at Warner Bros. What’s next: George Clooney gets a fat slice of Australia if he partners with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox? Well, one thing’s for sure: great way to bitchslap Sumner Redstone, eh, Tommy Boy? We all knew that hedge fund financing stuff was just filler. Major congrats to CAA and Bert Fields and Harry Sloan (and the Scientology folks) for thinking out of the box PR-wise, first by returning UA to its celeb roots, and then by slapping a studio name onto a housekeeping deal and grabbing positive headlines for the tarnished star. Isn’t everyone and their mother finding outside financing these days? Now the lunatics are literally running the asylum (though it’s really only four films a year). This is gonna be a ton of fun to watch. In the meantime, here’s the text of the press release from MGM on this relaunch of United Artists studio:
“LOS ANGELES, Nov. 2 — United Artists, the studio founded by movie greats Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith some 85 years ago and responsible for delivering such iconic film franchises as Rocky, Pink Panther and James Bond, will be reborn under a partnership formed between Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. The announcement was made today by Harry E. Sloan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, MGM. Cruise and Wagner, one of the most successful film production teams ever, will drive the rebirth of United Artists as MGM’s operating partner. Along with their substantial ownership, Cruise and Wagner will have control of setting the company’s production slate, from development to production greenlighting ability, subject to certain parameters. Wagner will serve as Chief Executive Officer of United Artists, overseeing the day to day operations of the studio alongside her longstanding producing partner Cruise, who will star in as well as produce films for United Artists and also be available to appear in film projects for other studios. Cruise last teamed up with the original UA on Rain Man in 1988, which won four Academy Awards including Best Picture.
“In establishing United Artists as a new entity, MGM and Cruise/Wagner will return the studio to its former roots by recognizing what made UA great in the first place — studio management by creative talent who can best encourage and support other creative talent. The talent friendly studio will be reborn as a place where producers, writers, directors and actors can thrive in a creative environment, developing and producing entertaining film projects. The plan would allow artists throughout the community to pursue their creative visions outside of the traditional studio system. The studio plans to have a production slate of approximately four films each year, which may increase in the future. World-wide marketing and distribution will be handled by partner MGM. UA will be a major supplier of feature films to MGM, with production and development of UA movies being fully financed by MGM and its partners. MGM is the only major studio controlled by private equity firms which include Providence Equity Partners and Texas Pacific Group along with industry partners Comcast Corp. and Sony Corp. of America.” The agreement between Cruise Wagner Productions and MGM/UA, which takes effect immediately, was brokered by Cruise Wagner’s rep CAA and attorney Bert Fields.
“‘Partnering with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, we have the ideal creative foundation from which to reintroduce the United Artists brand,’ said Sloan in making the announcement. ‘Tom and Paula are the modern versions of the iconic founders of United Artists — Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith — and our partnership with them reaffirms our commitment to providing creative talent with a comfortable home at United Artists and a dedicated distribution partner in MGM. United Artists is once again the haven for independent filmmakers and a vital resource in developing quality filmed entertainment consistent with MGM’s modern studio model.’
“Commented Cruise: ‘Paula and I are very respectful of the rich history and tradition of United Artists, and we welcome the opportunity to contribute to that legacy by providing a wide range of releases that appeal to all audiences. It’s our desire to create an environment where filmmakers can thrive and see their visions realized.’ “‘This is a great opportunity for Tom and me to re-establish the United Artists brand and to work closely with the creative community,’ stated Wagner. ‘As studio partner-operators, we will provide a supportive environment and infrastructure for filmmakers that will allow them to do their best work.’
“‘Providing Tom and Paula with the ability to greenlight films under the UA banner validates MGM’s commitment to and recognition of independent producers as the true creative nucleus of Hollywood filmmaking,’ said Rick Sands, COO of MGM. ‘The relationship between UA, which will provide the creative environment for independent producers to nurture content of their own vision and MGM, which will apply its expertise to distribution and marketing to those projects, is an ideal collaboration of art and business. The resurgence of United Artists will take us another step closer to realizing the full revitalization of MGM. Harry and I are personally thrilled to be working with Tom and Paula.’
Wagner and Cruise launched Cruise/Wagner Productions as an independent production company in September 1993. Since its inception, the company claims global box office grosses of $2.9+ billion. Films produced by the company include the Mission Impossible franchise as well as War of the Worlds, The Last Samurai, The Others and Vanilla Sky, among others. In a career spanning 26 years, Cruise has received three Academy Award nominations and has won three Golden Globe awards for his performances in Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire and Magnolia. Films he’s starred in have resulted in worldwide box office totals of approximately $6 billion and his last two films, War of the Worlds and Mission Impossible III, have grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide. Overall, Cruise has made 14 films that have grossed $100 million in domestic receipts, with his last seven consecutive films reaching that benchmark.