Brad Grey is not used to fighting from a deficit. Seriously. This is the man who helped usher in television hits in the past like “The Sopranos” and “The Larry Sanders Show” on HBO among others.
When Grey took over Paramount Pictures in 2005, the studio was in trouble. The year before, Paramount didn’t have a single film in the top 20. It’s highest-grossing that year was “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” which grossed $94.6 million. The next year was slightly better, thanks to “War of the Worlds” and “The Longest Yard,” but it seemed Paramount was close to becoming a studio of the past rather than the future.
Yet, Grey turned those fortunes around. By 2007, Paramount not only had two of the top five films of the year, but “Shrek the Third” nearly topped “Spider-Man 3” for the annual crown with $321 million.
Then Grey did the unthinkable — he brought back Star Trek. His predecessor, Shelly Lansing, had hired Emmy-winning writer Erik Jendresen to pen a prequel script. Grey, however, had different ideas. He was done trying to find new characters inspired by Kirk and Spock, and instead decided he wanted something with Kirk and Spock. He turned to a different director, J.J. Abrams, and the 2009 “Star Trek” was born, grossing $257 million, and finishing in the top 10 at the box office.
However, Grey can’t put out Star Trek every year, and Paramount hasn’t offered too much more in its place. Paramount hasn’t had the top film of the year since “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” in 2009, and that was the studio’s first time it was crowned the box office champion of a year since “Titanic” in 1998.
This past year was no better. The operating profit for the Paramount was just $111 million in the last fiscal year, according to the New York Post, compared to nearly double that the year before. Part of that, however, is Paramount’s insistence on producing fewer movies and aiming for bigger hits. It’s a strategy that might help Paramount land a Transformers or a “Titanic,” but makes little room for miscalculations on what could be flops.
So far in 2016, according to The Numbers, Paramount is holding its own, with three movies in the top 10. However, “Daddy’s Home” is the highest-ranked at seventh, with just $56 million.
And a whole slate of summer movies are set to be released, which really could define the year for all the studios. Among those is “Beyond,” which premieres July 22 — but it’s a film Paramount has done minimal marketing for.
In fact, only a teaser trailer has been released so far, and the film’s release is just three months away. That has some observers concerned that Paramount is not fully satisfied with what it’s seeing from director Justin Lin. In fact, a number of trailers dropped this weekend for the highly anticipated “Batman vs. Superman,” including many coming out this fall, and even 2017. None of them, however, was “Beyond.”
But should Grey be worried? The Post reminds us he has a contract until 2020 — but that doesn’t mean he will still be around until then. In fact, if “Beyond” falls below expectations, the newspaper has a grim warning for the studio executive: start looking for a new job.