Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #278: The Never Ending Sumner

Octogenarian media mogul Sumner Redstone compared himself to the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and declared that not only does he have no intention of retiring, he has no intention of dying either. And his inspired leadership, and the Star Trek reboot, will lead the struggling Paramount to new fields of gold, glory, and greatness.

Now I'm certain that these declarations were made in response to a rather harsh review given to the company by Pali Research. (Click here and scroll down for the details)

But the declarations illustrates Paramount's key problem, which is...


Not to make too big a point about Redstone's age, but when saw
Jurassic Park, he thought it was a film about his childhood. And now that I have the age joke out of the way I can get serious. The problem with his declaration is that many view him as Paramount's key problem.

He's racked up a lot of debt buying up smaller companies, he's alienated a lot of people in the industry, on both the creative and financial sides, and because of all those things, the company is struggling just to get films made.

When people, shareholders, and creditors alike, start asking what's going to be done to revive the company's fortunes, and all they get is the assurance that everything will be all better with more crappy shows on MTV, yet another cable channel in an already bloated cable universe, and a movie based on rehashing and prettifying a 40+ year old franchise that Paramount only stumbled upon owning when it bought Desilu Studios during the Gulf+Western era.

Paramount is almost in the exact same position it was in during the 1960s. It's spending too much money on films seen by not enough people,
Benjamin Button made $300+ million worldwide but probably only broke even at best, once prints and ads and foreign distributor cuts were considered, the films that do profit, are owned by others, (Marvel's Iron Man) or have such huge profit-participation deals Paramount gets very little for their investment (Indiana Jones anyone), and all they can think of is to throw more of other people's money down into the rabbit hole in the hope that it'll reach wonderland.

Well, the other people who provide that money, aren't all that interested in getting into bed with Sumner Redstone, and that's definitely unlikely to change with his assertion that he will have to be carried out of his corner office before he'd even consider passing the torch to a deserving, and fresh management team.

New management, especially good management might actually pull Paramount out of this death spiral, but old Sumner has no interest in saving the company and leaving a positive legacy in his wake. This sort of behaviour strikes me that he would rather be in charge than be successful, and a once grand company could get burned to the ground in the process.

Someone must tell Sumner that all fame is fleeting, that time waits for no one, and that when you pre-date the "talkie," retirement isn't exactly shameful.


  1. After having read the liked article, I have to think; if old Sumner is as serious about staying in control of the National Amusements empire as he says he is, then there may never be a Charles Bludhorn to his Adolph Zukor (at least Zukor knew to quit when Paramount was failing), thus fulfilling my earlier prediction.

  2. Proof-read, please. And not just spelling...