Regime change at Hollywood studios is almost always bloody. A new king or queen arrives and those loyal to the previous court lose their jobs.
But the guillotine has been dropping at Paramount Pictures with surprising speed, creating something of a panic inside the 109-year-old film company.
ViacomCBS, which owns Paramount, ousted Paramount’s chairman, James N. Gianopulos, on Sept. 13 and replaced him with Brian Robbins, a children’s television executive. By Sept. 17, Chris Petrikin, the studio’s respected executive vice president of global communications and corporate branding, had been shown the door. Emma Watts, president of the Paramount Motion Picture Group, was dismissed last week. And on Thursday, Paramount parted with its animation president, Mireille Soria.
Paramount declined to comment on the departures.
The speed with which Mr. Robbins is making changes reflects his personal style — forward charge! — and the vulnerable position in which Paramount and its corporate parent find themselves.
Paramount was once the most powerful studio in Hollywood, delivering culture-defining films like “The Godfather,” “Grease,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Forrest Gump” and “Beverly Hills Cop.” But severe mismanagement in the 2010s left it on life support. Mr. Gianopulos pulled it back from the brink, but the studio remains an also-ran, with many analysts viewing it as unequipped to compete with franchise-rich competitors like Disney and Universal.
Similarly, ViacomCBS ranks as a small player in the streaming business that has come to dominate the media industry. Mr. Robbins, who has online entertainment experience on his résumé and little attachment to calcified Hollywood business models, was installed at Paramount because ViacomCBS wants the studio to prioritize streaming distribution for films — in particular, feeding content to Paramount+, the conglomerate’s nascent streaming service.
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