Two powerful Hollywood women movie executives are out today: Paramount Pictures President Gail Berman, who exited about noon, and Paramount Pictures’ Co-President of Production Allison Shearmur, whose departure was announced at 6:45 p.m. Ironically, back in 2005 when Paramount Chairman/CEO Brad Grey named Berman to lead his pics’ creative team, The New York Times trumpeted “Hollywood’s New Old Girls’ Network” on the cover of the Sunday Arts and Leisure Section pegged to the hiring. “He did something that has become almost routine in Hollywood: he put a woman in charge of the show….Four of the six major film studios have women in the top creative decision-making roles … These women have finally buried the notion that Hollywood is a man’s world. So striking is the change that some now see Hollywood as a gender-based model for the rest of corporate America.” But that was then, and this is now; and only Amy Pascal at Sony Pictures Entertainment is left standing as the one female mogul in a position of real power without layers of male bureaucracy above her. Gail Berman’s main crime was being a bitch. (Whereas, saying a guy in her job was a bastard is considered high praise in Hollywood.) She had two years left on her contract, and I can report exclusively that she’s exiting with no studio production deal, nada, which is unusual. (Berman also won’t be replaced; Brad Grey will referee all four movie divisions now.) Then again, there’s a lot of acrimony surrounding Berman’s leaving. I also can report that this situation did not come to a head between her and boss Grey until yesterday afternoon after not just one but two negative stories about her were going to appear in today’s Los Angeles Times. While things were bad between them for a while, they got worse after Paramount’s DreamWorks acquisition when she was pissed that her slate was reduced — from 12 to 16 movies to only 6 to 8 pictures a year — and, by all accounts, stayed mad as hell. But the knives were out for Gail since the day she took over, even if she hadn’t gone on to piss off so many agents and producers and managers and lawyers and screenwriters who got back at her by venting to reporters about her nasty demeanor, her attempts to grab credit for projects she didn’t greenlight, and her bizarre color/team organizational system (see second column item). Many nasty articles were written about her — some deserved, some not, as if politeness is a necessary quality in Hollywood. As for her TV experience, plenty of people make the successful transition to movies: Barry Diller, Michael Eisner, Bob Daly, even Brad Grey himself. Some don’t, like Brandon Tartikoff and Gail Berman, or so Paramount sources told me today. “She was never happy in this world. Somehow, she never got comfortable. She just wasn’t right for the job.” Berman herself wasn’t talking. Also, people at the studio were hard pressed to identify a “Berman” movie. (For instance, Grey himself was behind the greenlighting of World Trade Center, a spec script bought from CAA superagent Bryan Lourd, and Nacho Libre, from an outline by screenwriter Mike White with whom ex-TV producer Grey had worked on three series.) Berman, the one-time president of the Fox TV network, was a shocking choice to be named as the studio’s president in the first place back in March 2005 because she didn’t know squat about the movie biz. Now berman joins the list of women who were once steering studios in a high capacity in recent years and all left their posts, because of situations where either they jumped or were pushed: Nina Jacobson at Disney’s Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, Laura Ziskin at Fox 2000, Lisa Henson and Lucy Fisher at Columbia, Sherry Lansing at Paramount, Stacey Snider at Universal, even Laurie MacDonald at Dreamworks Pictures (co-head with her husband). True, Snider is now at DreamWorks, and Elizabeth Gabler at Fox 2000, but both have layers of male bosses above them. The result is that movie executive suites are returning to the old days when they were exclusively a male preserve.
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