Hollywood’s Biggest Producer Considers Free Agency

Chris Meledandri
Meledandri would be giving up a lot if he bailed, not to mention that Universal has done a great job distributing his films, deploying the I.P. across the NBCUniversal flywheel, and turning Illumination into a name brand nearly on par with Pixar. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
July 2, 2024

Even by today’s diminished standards, Chris Meledandri isn’t exactly the most dynamic figure in the entertainment industry. Low-key, dressed down, boring. He’s better over lunch—articulate, chatty, even a little gossipy—but if you told a random person that this is the most powerful producer in Hollywood, they’d probably wonder if they were instead looking at that producer’s accountant.

That low profile is probably why the news that Meledandri could soon be a free agent hasn’t generated much attention. His wildly successful deal to make animated movies for Comcast/NBCUniversal is up soon—there’s actually some confusion over when exactly, due to California’s rule against personal services contracts that last longer than seven years, but it’s likely next year—and negotiations to re-sign him have begun in earnest, per four sources familiar with the process. His exit from Universal would be a seismic event, the rare film business shift that would almost certainly move the Comcast stock. (Meledandri and Universal declined to comment.)