When Jim Gianopulos left as 20th Century Fox chairman, one of the opportunities presented to him was creating a seventh studio with a deep-pocketed investment group. As attractive as that option was, he said there was nothing better than taking the reins last year at Paramount as chairman and CEO.
Building a new studio has its own set of challenges, but “what a studio represents is history, its accumulation of storytellers, its global reach in all media, its executives teams that have disparate values and experiences,” he said today during a Q&A at the 10th annual PGA Produced By conference on the Melrose lot.
To take a studio that has had a rough ride, and bring it back to what it should be — that was a challenge well worth taking, he said.
“When you look back at the history of this place, it’s extraordinary,” the Paramount boss said, citing the studio’s run during the early aughts and with hits like The Godfather, Beverly Hills Cop, etc. “It was an opportunity to be part of a Renaissance….to be part of that you can’t turn down. So now’s the work. Fortunately, now I can see the future.”
Gianopulos was in conversation this morning with Fast & Furious franchise producer Neal H. Moritz, who also recently made Paramount his new home.
When it comes to developing a successful film nowadays per Gianopulos, originality takes precedence over a pic’s financial structure. While thousands of financial models can always be built in the greenlight process, originality — especially in this fierce theatrical-vs.-streaming marketplace, will always win on the big screen, and that’s the first litmus test in regards to whether a project moves forward in a studio system.
“I still feel a good story well told will always succeed,” he said. Case in point: A Quiet Place, the silent horror film that went into production soon after Gianopulos arrived late last year and became a huge spring hit for the studio, making well over $300 million at the global box office.
However, the Paramount boss doesn’t rest on his laurels when it comes to making movies, especially now.
“If something is working today, and you say ‘let’s do more of that’, you’ll have a problem — that’s the opposite of originality. The kinds of movies that are working now, [if you say] let’s bring out more of them a year from now, the audiences will have moved on. That’s a recipe for disappointment,” Gianopulos told Moritz, the latter whose new production deal kicks off with the live-action/animated combo Sonic the Hedgehog.
Gianopulos said he and his creative team aim to take a pulse of “general trends in pop culture. What things appeal to people in general, and what’s the original version of that? You hope your predictions and plans are right,” he said.
After determining whether a project is original, Gianopulos said, “we then determine who the audience is for the film, how we’re going to sell it, and then given the parameters of the audience, what is the likely range of outcome of this film. Economics comes down the list after uniqueness, audience and marketing.”
In regards to who to make movies for, “make them for someone or for everyone,” said Gianopulos. Book Club is an example of a successful film for a 50+ audience, on its way to $60M-plus after a low acquisition pickup by Paramount. A Quiet Place and Mission: Impossible – Fallout, meanwhile, are movies for everyone.
During the discussion, Moritz shared with the audience how he sold Gianopulos on making an animated version of Sonic, a classic Sega video game character. The Paramount boss was well aware of the fact that video games don’t translate successfully to film, but there was a hook, and Moritz made a short clip to show exactly what the tone and theme would be for the furry blue character.
Gianopulos was sold on Sonic‘s story. “He’s a juvenile delinquent on the adventures in a pretty straight rural environment with a local policeman. It was instantly engaging and it was good enough where you could see where it’s going,” he said.