Despite vehement denials late last year that Skydance’s long relationship with Paramount Pictures would be extended, the company announced that it has in fact reupped its producing and co-financing relationship with the studio for another four years. This gives Paramount much needed cash to try and launch tent pole films and franchises, something it sorely needs. Pictures on the docket include Mission: Impossible, the Joseph Kosinski-Tom Cruise collaboration Top Gun, and the David Fincher-Brad Pitt sequel to World War Z. Skydance was already part of these pictures. Of note here is the formalization of news that Deadline broke last January, that the studio will re-launch of the Terminator franchise with Skydance. Ellison, who bought the rights from sister Megan Ellison (she acquired them out of bankruptcy years ago for $20 million) and mounted what was meant to be a resurrection of the franchise.
The film fell flat, but the next movie will be a major event because it has the ingredient that has been missing since the first two films — creator James Cameron. He gets back key rights in 2019, and Ellison arranged to have him actively involved as a creative presence, alongside Deadpool director Tim Miller. Their goal is to right the cyborg saga and find a way to satisfactorily solve the battle between humanity and Skynet, the VFX-heavy collision that Cameron set up way back in 1984 with the first film. New pictures include Bermuda Triangle and Gemini Man, which Ang Lee will direct with Will Smith starring. Also coming are animated features through Skydance’s recently formed partnership with Spain’s Ilion Animation studios. The company will look to generate three to four films per year that Paramount will distribute.
The first two animated films Skydance brings to Paramount are Luck, a comedy from director Alessandro Carloni and writers Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger; and Split, a fantasy project being directed by Vicky Jenson and written by Linda Woolverton. David Ellison’s production company has been intertwined with Paramount almost since its inception, providing half the funds for many of Paramount’s big ticket franchises over the years.
Ellison has moved from a slate co-financier toward producing and funding his own homegrown projects. He raised $700 million in funding last year (sources said his father, Oracle’s Larry Ellison became a stakeholder), and insiders at the company said last year that the deal with Paramount would come to an end. This was when Brad Grey was desperately trying to hold onto his position after a dreadful fiscal year and the exit of vice chairman Rob Moore, and also after the sequels Star Trek Beyond and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back fizzled quickly and were among a number of franchises that Paramount could not get off the ground in a fiscal year that brought $445 million in losses. Skydance’s stance that it was peeling away from Paramount seemed plausible in that it was setting up pictures at other studios. One of the first major ones, the Daniel Espinosa-directed Life, was a flop at Sony. Baywatch, a holdover title from the Grey regime, also misfired this summer. Likely, both parties found a mutual need for one another. If Skydance puts in half the money for Paramount’s bigger ticket internal productions, it will certainly help chairman Jim Gianopulos as he tries to turn around the studio’s long sagging fortunes.
Said Ellison: “We have the utmost confidence in Paramount’s bright future under the strategic direction of Jim Gianopulos, and we look forward to continuing to partner with him and the world-class leadership team that he has put in place. From beloved franchises to wholly original IP and bold new animated films, together we have ambitious plans to bring more great stories to the big screen for audiences around the globe.”
Said Gianopulos: “David and his team have been creative producers on films in some of the most successful action-adventure and science fiction franchises of all time, and we’re thrilled that Skydance movies will feature prominently on the Paramount slate for years to come. Skydance has been a key part of Paramount’s history and I am confident that our partnership will continue to deliver many successes both commercially and financially into the future.”