Tom Cruise, MGM to revive United Artists

MUMBAI: United Artists, the studio founded by movie greats Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith some 85 years ago and responsible for delivering such iconic film franchises as Rocky, Pink Panther and James Bond, ill be reborn under a partnership formed between Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. (MGM).

The announcement was made today by MGM chairman and CEO Harry E. Sloan.

Cruise and Wagner will drive the rebirth of United Artists as MGM’s operating partner. Along with their substantial ownership, Cruise and Wagner will have control of setting the company’s production slate, from development to production greenlighting ability, subject to certain parameters. Wagner will serve as CEO of United Artists, overseeing the day to day operations of the studio alongside her longstanding producing partner Cruise, who will star in as well as produce films for United Artists and also be available to appear in film projects for other studios.

Cruise last teamed up with the original UA on Rain Man in 1988, which won four Academy Awards including Best Picture.

In establishing United Artists as a new entity, MGM and Cruise/Wagner will return the studio to its former roots by recognizing what made UA great in the first place — studio management by creative talent who can best encourage and support other creative talent. The talent friendly studio will be reborn as a place where producers, writers, directors and actors can thrive in a creative environment, developing and producing entertaining film projects. The plan would allow artists throughout the community to pursue their creative visions outside of the traditional studio system.

The studio plans to have a production slate of approximately four films each year, which may increase in the future. Worldwide marketing and distribution will be handled by partner MGM. UA will be a major supplier of feature films to MGM, with production and development of UA movies being fully financed by MGM and its partners. MGM is the only major studio controlled by private equity firms which include Providence Equity Partners and Texas Pacific Group along with industry partners Comcast Corp. and Sony Corp. of America.

“Partnering with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, we have the ideal creative foundation from which to reintroduce the United Artists brand. Tom and Paula are the modern versions of the iconic founders of United Artists — Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith — and our partnership with them reaffirms our commitment to providing creative talent with a comfortable home at United Artists and a dedicated distribution partner in MGM. United Artists is once again the haven for independent filmmakers and a vital resource in developing quality filmed entertainment consistent with MGM’s modern studio model,” said Sloan.

Cruise added, “Paula and I are very respectful of the rich history and tradition of United Artists, and we welcome the opportunity to contribute to that legacy by providing a wide range of releases that appeal to all audiences. It’s our desire to create an environment where filmmakers can thrive and see their visions realized.”

“This is a great opportunity for Tom and me to re-establish the United Artists brand and to work closely with the creative community. As studio partner-operators, we will provide a supportive environment and infrastructure for filmmakers that will allow them to do their best work,” stated Wagner.

“Providing Tom and Paula with the ability to greenlight films under the UA banner validates MGM’s commitment to and recognition of independent producers as the true creative nucleus of Hollywood filmmaking. The relationship between UA, which will provide the creative environment for independent producers to nurture content of their own vision and MGM, which will apply its expertise to distribution and marketing to those projects, is an ideal collaboration of art and business. The resurgence of United Artists will take us another step closer to realizing the full revitalization of MGM. Harry and I are personally thrilled to be working with Tom and Paula,” said MGM COO Rick Sands.

Wagner and Cruise launched Cruise/Wagner Productions as an independent production company in September 1993. Since its inception, the company has produced a wide range of films that have global box office grosses in excess of $2.9 billion. Films produced by the company include the Mission Impossible franchise as well as War of the Worlds, The Last Samurai, The Others and Vanilla Sky, among others.