“Amazon just wants content. They don’t care about quality content,” said an industry veteran
Others questioned the direction of MGM and its vast lineup of film projects in the absence of two established industry figures who oversaw blockbuster franchises like James Bond, ‘Creed’ and the upcoming ‘Legally Blonde’. 3″ as well as acclaimed baits like “House of Gucci” and “Licorice Pizza”.
And others wondered if it was a sign that MGM Worldwide Television Group Chairman Mark Burnett might soon be heading for the exit door as well.
A management shakeup wasn’t entirely unexpected since Amazon Studios already has a top boss in Jennifer Salke, the former president of NBC Entertainment who has led the streamer’s filmed content division since 2018. It’s no surprise that this happened because Amazon was already a studio and had its own staff in place. And there’s not a lot of room at the top,” said Bryan Sullivan, partner at Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae. which focuses on entertainment and investing.
Even if logic could lead to the conclusion that De Luca and Abdy would make an exit as giant Amazon took over MGM, no one considered the possibility Tuesday night at a cocktail party at Las Vegas’ The Palm thrown by Imax. , where shrimp were in abundance and masks were totally absent. Executives from Warner Bros., Universal and other major companies have talked about returning to theaters and renewed and robust slates at some studios, and some have spoken about the expectation that Burnett will come out – but not the film crew, which happened the next morning.
Both De Luca and deputy Abdy are considered talented industry executives, with long resumes of successful filmmaking and numerous talent connections. These struck many as qualities that would be important to any successful cinematic strategy. “The bigger question is, where are they going?” Sullivan asked. “And are they going to have some sort of relationship with Amazon in the future?” (Amazon hasn’t announced any production deals with De Luca or Abdy, a typical move when a high-level executive leaves a senior position.)
Representatives for Amazon and MGM did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Still, it seems change — constant and rapid — is the order of the day in Hollywood. And what Amazon’s strategy will be, particularly when it comes to its theatrical route, is a priority for industry insiders.
At a party after Universal’s Wednesday presentation in Las Vegas, which was wall-to-wall with industry veterans, a studio executive sneered at the move. “Amazon just wants content,” the executive said. “They don’t care about good content.”
A high-level agent agreed that De Luca’s resignation came as a major shock, even to more junior executives at MGM. As recently as Tuesday, the agent said, many expected things to be business as usual under Amazon’s new bosses and even those at the TV unit and MGM subsidiary Orion were expecting the Amazon’s next town hall before the official news is out.
However, other insiders said De Luca might have been inclined to leave no matter what, in hopes that a new filmmaker might be brought in to lead the unit. Neither De Luca nor Abdy would be happy to report to Salke, the agent said, not to mention the streamer’s new director of films, Julie Rapaport.
Another insider with knowledge of Amazon described working for such a large company “a political nightmare” – something that might not have suited the outgoing executives.
Indeed, many industry veterans wonder if MGM can retain an identity or autonomy as a division of Amazon, with the agent fearing that in the long run, the Orion and MGM units could ultimately power “the machine “or simply become a co-production. label for branding purposes. “Amazon has such a pervasive culture,” the agent said. “I don’t see them wanting competing interests.”
Still, Amazon Studios has traditionally operated on a much bigger budget than MGM, with a $13 billion content spend for 2021 that eclipsed MGM’s purchase price. Salke has had major success with landmark properties like ‘The Tomorrow War’ and ‘Without Remorse’, as well as ‘Reacher’ on the TV side, and recently secured the rights to produce live-action film ‘Voltron’. from “Red Notice” director Rawson Marshall Thurber.
Despite Amazon’s involvement, James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have been adamant that future 007 installments will remain theatrical releases, and a person with knowledge of the projects added that it would be It’s unlikely that bigger tentpoles already in the box like “Creed III” would suddenly jump to streaming. and Ron Howard’s “Thirteen Lives” about the true 2018 story of the Thai soccer team trapped in a cave.
Additionally, MGM has other hot projects in the works, including new films by Guy Ritchie and Luca Guadagnino, several projects by Channing Tatum as part of his company’s first deal with MGM, an adaptation of a comic book by Ta Nehisi-Coates, an adaptation of the musical “Porgy and Bess”, “Project Hail Mary” with directors/producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and even the intellectual property of Mattel’s Polly Pocket toys. The producers of several of those projects did not immediately respond to requests for comment on their current status at MGM/Amazon.
Sullivan said it’s unlikely either of those projects will be scrapped altogether as De Luca and Abdy step away from their leadership roles. Even without having their contracts in hand to study, “most C-level executives stay with the project to some extent” after an exit, Sullivan said. Executives could also form an Amazon-funded production company rather than look to another studio or streamer.
De Luca and Abdy’s exit also underscores that Amazon was less interested in acquiring MGM as a working studio and more in the company’s rich library. MGM has a vault of 4,000 movie titles and 17,000 hours of TV programming, including the “Rocky” movie franchise, James Bond and the Emmy-winning “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
“At Amazon, there’s already a studio, they don’t need MGM’s production staff or their new projects,” Sullivan said. “The library has the greatest value.”
Even though MGM’s film division is shrinking, many industry watchers are also waiting for another shoe to drop with Burnett. There has long been speculation that Burnett is set to exit following the Amazon deal – especially as Salke is already well established on the television side – although an individual close to the executive said he had not decided on his next steps.
Burnett, whose contract expires this year, has a track record with ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘The Voice’ since his days at NBC, but has struggled to produce new unscripted hits since being named the group’s president. television in 2018. “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Fargo” became high-profile hits for the studio, but were reportedly clashing with other MGM executives.
“Jen is really appreciated by her team, and Mark has a lot of detractors,” said a veteran agent who asked not to be named.
“I’d be surprised if Mark Burnett stays around for long — very surprised,” Stephen Galloway, dean of Chapman University’s Dodge Film School, said after the deal closed in March.
Sharon Waxman contributed to this report.