Paramount Has Been On The Ropes Before; A Reminder How Creative Courage & A Suave Front Man Saved The Sinking Studio

The implosion of talks between David Ellison’s Skydance and Shari Redstone has cast a pall on the town. Beyond Paramount Global’s share price inching down to below $10 a share, enthusiasm does not seem high over the rival bidders or Redstone relying on a troika of George Cheeks, Chris McCarthy and Brian Robbins, who are proposing $500 million in cuts as a remedy. That won’t strengthen the asset, and hasn’t stopped the stock slide as many fear another deal might lead to Paramount Global being stripped down and sold for parts including its historic lot.

What might work? How about some creative courage and doubling down on ambitious projects? Or even keeping going CBS signature procedurals like Blue Bloods, whose Tom Selleck-led cast is kicking and screaming to stop the show from fading away at season’s end? Blue Bloods might not be a sexy Emmy magnet like Succession, but it has made a lot more money.

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In the spirit of leaning into creative ingenuity over stunts to gin up the stock, click above to watch a film that actor-turned-Paramount chief Robert Evans fronted, back when that studio was on the rocks and hoping literary properties like Love Story and The Godfather could end the nosedive. Our erstwhile columnist Peter Bart admitted to me that it was he who wrote the Rocky-like speech for Evans, and that they got Mike Nichols to shoot it. The appeal was seen widely and became impactful in the financial community, especially when those films and other originals became hits. How the Paramount brain trust mishandled success is another matter that Bart writes about below, following a flush 1975 when seemingly everything the studio made turned into a hit.

Evans wasn’t kidding when he said the studio wasn’t a passive participant in publication of those books. Bart told me that he read Erich Segal’s Love Story script and suggested he first turn it into a novel. Segal patently refused; he was a Yale professor whose academic career would be ruined by identification with such a commercial book. Bart said he understood, and then offered Segal $35,000. The academic reconsidered, and accepted on the spot. The rest is history. Hollywood, after all, is the place where everybody wakes up with a puncher’s chance to win, provided courage and self-belief are ingredients.

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