This is not surprising news. “There’s no drama here. He wants to produce,” an insider tells me about Roger Birnbaum’s decision. “He was just done with the business side. He now wants to focus only on movies and talent.” Understandable since it took Birnbaum and longtime partner Gary Barber two years to take over MGM after its bankruptcy and return it to a firmer footing with both its creditors and the Hollywood community. “Everybody’s happy – and Roger is ecstatic,” the insider adds. Here’s the announcement:
October 3, 2012 (Los Angeles, CA) – Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum today announced that Birnbaum will transition to an exclusive producer role at the studio, while Barber will become the sole Chairman and CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. Birnbaum will remain in his current offices in MGM’s executive suite and will produce and develop new projects exclusively for the company. The announcement marks a return to hands-on producing for Birnbaum. He will first serve as executive producer and oversee production of the José Padilha reboot of the 1980s classic ROBOCOP, which started principal photography on September 15. Other upcoming projects he plans to produce include films based on DEATHWISH, WAR GAMES and MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.
“Gary and I decided, 2 years ago, to accept the challenge of joining MGM and restoring the company to its rightful place in the industry. I am very proud of where MGM is today,” said Birnbaum. “I have been in the film business a long time, and my greatest passion has always been producing. Now is the time for me to return to what I love to do the most…producing films. And the fact that I will be producing for MGM, with Gary, my partner and friend will be very gratifying.”
“I respect Roger’s decision to return to his passion of ‘hands on’ producing, and we are thrilled he has chosen to stay at MGM on an exclusive basis,” said Gary Barber. “We have been partners for almost 15 years and we have shared many successes together and I look forward to many more. I have the utmost confidence in Roger’s ability to produce many of our key upcoming productions, and I could not be happier that we will continue to work together.”
“The Board is very pleased with the performance of the company under Gary and Roger,” said Ann Mather, the Lead Director of MGM Holdings, Inc. the parent company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. “We want to thank Roger and look forward to him producing upcoming MGM films and have full confidence in Gary continuing to lead the company with the talented management team in place.”
Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum were appointed Co-Chairman and CEO’s of MGM in December 2010 as the company emerged from bankruptcy. Since that time, they have secured a distribution and co-financing partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment, which includes such films as THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, 21 JUMP STREET and the upcoming 23rd James Bond adventure, SKYFALL. They solidified a partnership with Warner Brothers/New Line Cinema on the upcoming THE HOBBIT trilogy, beginning this December with THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. Additionally, MGM is partnered with Paramount Pictures on several upcoming films including GI JOE: RETALIATION and HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS. Barber’s and Birnbaum’s reinvigorated MGM is also currently in production on the ROBOCOP re-boot (along with partner Sony), scheduled for release August 2013 and the recently wrapped CARRIE (with Sony’s Screen Gems) due March 2013. In April 2011, Barber and Birnbaum renewed MGM’s worldwide home entertainment distribution pact with Fox Home Entertainment, extending the agreement through 2016.
Since the company emerged from bankruptcy, it has created new TV content including an original scripted television series, VIKINGS, which MGM has developed and will distribute with History Channel, as well as new programming from MGM’s classic catalog, including the drama series TEEN WOLF with MTV and is in development on the upcoming re-imagined unscripted series FAME partnering with Nigel Lythgoe. Additionally, the company has also announced a multitude of distribution and output deals to broadcast MGM’s new films, television series and library assets with companies worldwide.
Over the past two years, Barber and Birnbaum strengthened the executive ranks across the company, with the appointment of Ken Schapiro as Chief Operating Officer, long-time colleague Jonathan Glickman as President of the Motion Picture Group, Roma Khanna as President of Television Group & Digital, and Dene Stratton as Chief Financial Officer. All will continue to report to Barber.
Barber and Birnbaum will continue their long-term partnership at Spyglass Entertainment, a company they founded together in 1998, and which produced hit films including THE SIXTH SENSE, BRUCE ALMIGHTY and SEABISCUIT. While no longer producing films through Spyglass, they continue to own the library assets of the company together.