Paramount Pictures is arguably the world's oldest surviving movie studio, tracing its lineage back to 1912. It forms the core of the Filmed Entertainment division within what is now ViacomCBS. Although a giant of the movie industry from the 1970s to the 1990s responsible for such as classics as the 'Godfather', 'Star Trek' and 'Indiana Jones' series and long-time box-office champion 'Titanic', Paramount scaled down its operations in the early 2000s. Its ill-advised strategy was to avoid high-risk blockbusters, but as a result the studio alienated many filmmakers and came close to falling off the Hollywood map. A return to big-budget blockbusters paid some belated dividends from 2007 onwards: Paramount was re-established as the #1 studio that year for the first time in decades. Much of the credit for that achievement was due to an alliance with the DreamWorks studio, acquired in 2005, and which controlled the 'Transformers' franchise. However that partnership proved fractious. Several key figures, including director Steven Spielberg, left the company at the end of 2008, alienated once again by owner Sumner Redstone. The subsequent termination of a separate relationship with DreamWorks Animation prompted a prolonged slump in box office performance occasionally interrupted by episodes of the still-popular 'Transformers' franchise. Paramount has been the smallest of the big six studios every year since then. It scored two much-needed hits in 2018 with 'Mission Impossible Fallout' (worldwide gross of $790m) and 'A Quiet Place' ($341m), but not big enough to lift Paramount above its perennial 6th place among the studios by total box office. Its top film in the US in 2019 - Elton John biopic 'Rocketman' - couldn't even manage $100m at the US box office, and grossed only $195m globally, leaving it outside the Top 40 releases. 'Terminator Dark Fate' did even worse in the US but scraped $261m globally, and 'Gemini Man' with Will Smith was a high-profile flop. Long-serving CEO Brad Grey was ousted in 2017, but his successor Jim Gianopoulos has yet to achieve a lasting turnaround. 'Sonic The Hedgehog' did better than expected in 2020 after disastrous production problems. But the Covid pandemic virtually halted all movie production and theatrical distribution, and delayed the release of hoped-for hits 'A Quiet Place 2' and 'Top Gun Maverick'. Paramount also has a small but successful television production division, and lends its name to several cable strands owned separately by Viacom. In 2021, ViacomCBS lauched Paramount+ as its streaming content channel, offering content from across the group. Paramount Pictures' divisional revenues for 2019 were $3.0bn - just 10% of total ViacomCBS revenues - and theatrical releases and home entertainment contributed less than half that sum. The biggest revenue stream came from licensing of Paramount's new and heritage releases to pay-TV and streaming services.
Capsule checked 23rd October 2020
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Historical profile information for Paramount Pictures
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th May 2017: Brad Grey, chairman & CEO of Paramount Pictures for 12 years until his forced resignation only three months ago, has died at the age of just 59. According to his family the cause was cancer. Before his appointment at Paramount, Grey had enjoyed considerable success as a producer in TV, most notably with the Larry Sanders Show and The Sopranos. Though there were early successes at Paramount, such as the hugely successful Transformers series and Mission: Impossible, the studio has in recent years been struggling as a result of a series of box office flops. Yet Grey had managed to retain the support of Sumner Redstone, controlling shareholder of Paramount parent Viacom. That support began to waver with Redstone's increasing mental incapacitation, and the growing influence of his daughter Shari Redstone.
Adbrands Weekly Update 13th Apr 2017: There's no respite yet for ailing Paramount Pictures. Futureshock thriller The Ghost In The Shell looks certain to become its latest flop despite the presence of Scarlett Johansen in the lead role. Trade source Deadline predicts a loss of at least $60m on the project, which is thought to have cost over $250m to make and market, possibly much more. So far it has taken in only a little over $32m in the US, though international has been stronger, making a combined total so far of $129m.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Mar 2017: Viacom picked former 20th Century Fox chief Jim Gianopoulos to lead its ailing Paramount Pictures movie division. At Fox, Gianopoulos oversaw huge hits including Avatar, Deadpool and the X-Men series. He is tasked with reviving a studio which has enjoyed critical praise for recent releases like Arrival and Fences, but a string of commercial flops. It has been the bottom-ranked major studio by US box office for the past five years, and filed a net loss of $445m for 2016. Its last major hit was Transformers:Dark of the Moon in 2011. Since then, out of 40 movies to have exceeded a gross of $250m at the US box office, not one has been from Paramount, and only six of its releases exceeded $100m.
Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd Feb 2017: The latest shakeup at Viacom appears to be the possible departure of Paramount CEO Brad Grey who has led the fabled movie studio since 2005, despite a run of recent flops including Monster Trucks, Ben Hur and Zoolander 2. Grey was a close confidante of Viacom's former CEO Philippe Daumann and ailing patriarch Sumner Redstone, but has failed to consolidate his position with new CEO Robert Bakish and current controlling shareholder Shari Redstone. His exit was widely rumoured but has yet to be confirmed.
Adbrands Weekly Update 1st Sep 2016: Latest development in the Viacom soap opera is that Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey appears to have survived the axe. He was called before the struggling media group's new board of directors to explain the studio's run of box office disappointments. Ousted Viacom CEO Philippe Daumann had been proposing to sell a stake of as much of 49% in Paramount to outside investors, possibly from China. That plan, which was apparently opposed by controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone and his daughter, vice chair Shari Redstone, looks like it will not be green-lit, though Daumann will still get a chance to argue his case before his departure mid-September. In a joint statement, the Viacom board said they "remain fully supportive of Brad and his leadership of the studio. Under Brad’s leadership, Paramount has taken significant, successful steps to broaden and strengthen its business, and we are confident that Brad and his team have the skills, relationships and resources necessary to return Paramount to success in its movie business and continue its rapid growth in television." Grey, who has run Paramount for the past 11 years, is moving the studio aggressively into television, with 15 shows currently in production.
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