EXCLUSIVE: A major shake up is taking place at Arnon Milchan’s New Regency. Co-chairmen Bob Harper and Hutch Parker will not renew their contracts when they expire in December. I’ve confirmed with Harper that he and Parker are negotiating their exits. There had recently been a ripple of rumors about this, and there will be the inevitable speculation over whether the duo are jumping before being pushed. Harper didn’t get into that, but said that he was confirming because he and Parker were aware of the rumors and were most concerned with reassuring filmmakers with Regency projects that the duo would continue to be closely involved and see those films through to release. Harper also said the decision came after months of conversations with Milchan over whether or not to renew. Recently, they came to the conclusion that this was the best course. Milchan could conceivably name a replacement quickly, but Harper told me that he and Parker will continue to see through the completed films as well as some of the projects that are gearing up for production starts, regardless of how quickly the succession takes place.
Harper had been in the job for four years (he moved from the post of vice chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment and has worked for Fox since 1986), and Parker had been in the post for more than three years (he moved over from the post of 20th Century Fox vice chairman, and had been with the studio 13 years when he took the job). They have been involved in every facet of New Regency films, including production, marketing, distribution and administering the library. Harper said it is unclear what will happen next year, and that he and Harper haven’t solidified their plans. I wouldn’t be surprised if they remain on the Fox lot as producers or in some other capacity.
New Regency has a busy fall, with four films to be released: the Anna Faris-Chris Evans comedy What’s Your Number, which Fox releases September 30; the Andrew Niccol-directed In Time, which Fox releases October 28; Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, which Fox releases December 16; and The Darkest Hour, the Emile Hirsch-Max Minghella-starrer that will be released by Summit Entertainment on December 25. Among the films New Regency has on a fast track are Noah, the Biblical epic that Darren Aronofsky will direct in partnership with Paramount Pictures; Luna, the Doug Liman-directed space film that also has Paramount as partner (David Ellison’s Skydance recently dropped out as one of the financiers, but the film is in the process of being budgeted); and The Gray Man, the James Gray-directed action film that recently landed a starring commitment from Brad Pitt.
Milchan is expected to play a more active role going forward, like he did when he started the company. The search will begin shortly to replace Harper and Parker. New Regency has been a cornerstone company for Fox, which is a part owner along with Milchan (who owns 80%) in the production/finance company. Milchan in 1998 made a 15-year deal with Fox to distribute its films, and Fox Filmed Entertainment chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman in January extended that deal for an additional nine years. The pact now runs through May, 2022. It is labeled an exclusive deal, though the two films with Paramount and the one with Summit indicate that it’s not entirely exclusive.
I’m told this development won’t derail Regency’s plan to relaunch a television production division. This is something that Parker has been shepherding, screening candidates to take the top post. The division once hatched such TV hits as Malcolm in the Middle, Roswell and Bernie Mac. I’m told that Milchan favors the move and that the intention is to get the division off the ground sometime this fall.