For a producer, firm knowledge of the forces at play within the film industry is key. In our Business & Legal class, as part of our coffee & trades assignment, we analyze the previous week’s industry activity. One story that caught my eye last week was that of CEO Tom Rothman’s departure from Fox. With some help from my fellow producer Lauren, we delved a little deeper into the story.
News broke September 14th, with statements released by both Rothman and Fox; the former stating ‘I have decided that after more than 18 years I am resigning’, and the latter affirming that ‘Rothman will step down’. The Hollywood Reporter later suggested that Rothman was blindsided. Deadline Hollywood implied that ‘though in truth this is an amicable parting of the ways, the word around Hollywood is that Rothman was fired before he could jump ship.’
‘Rothman presided at the studio since 2001 without a single quarterly loss, until recent years, in which Fox has performed erratically’. Franchises have served Fox well, but this year’s ‘soft summer at the box office, a power shift at News Corp, and a perceived flirtation with Universal lead to [his] end’. Many speculate that Rothman passing on Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut, Ted, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
MacFarlane first landed on Fox’s doorstep in 1999 with the animated sitcom Family Guy, and fast became a staple of the Fox family. However, when Fox under-bid for Ted, MacFarlane took the film to Universal. It has grossed $407m to date, and has fast become the ‘highest grossing original R-rated comedy of all time overseas’. If I was a Fox executive, I’d probably want to fire someone.
MacFarlane’s passion project has long been to reboot The Flintstones. Until recently, Warner Bros, who acquired Hanna-Barbera’s back-catalogue, including The Flintstones, were in development with Fox on the project, fronted by MacFarlane. In April 2012, Fox was reportedly unsatisfied with MacFarlane’s pilot script and gave him the option to ‘start over, or table it for a while.’ He tabled it.
Between recent hosting duties on Saturday Night Live and the confirmation of a Ted sequel, Universal seems to be doing their best to butter MacFarlane up. Recently, he stated, ‘part of me thinks that Family Guy should have already ended’. Now that Warner Bros have opened their Hanna-Barbera back-catalogue to Universal, in the form of a Jetsons film, might this pave the way for a Flintstones reboot helmed by MacFarlane? Might Rothman’s ‘perceived flirtation’ have been that by passing on Ted, he has given to Universal not only a massive money earner, but he also may even take some talent with him when he turns up there in an executive position?
This awareness of industry movements and depth of analysis is what is asked of us in Business & Legal. Whether or not there is any merit to any of this speculation is debatable. Not only will it be interesting to see how this all plays out, but keeping a close eye on the trades is also imperative for any producer hoping to make a mark in the industry.
On a final note, I can’t overstate how okay I would be with this at the start of every movie.