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Shining Up Sumner’s Camaro: Behind the Paramount Executive Shakeup

Jim Gianopulos and Tom Cruise in 2018
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
September 12, 2021

You weren’t surprised, were you? For most of the summer, ViacomCBS owner Shari Redstone wasn’t exactly shy in expressing her displeasure with the direction of Paramount Pictures. Lunches, meetings, Hamptons parties—people who spoke with her tell me how openly she dissed it. Never mind that Jim Gianopulos, the old-school film executive that she had hired in 2017 to fish the studio out of the Melrose Avenue tar pit where Philippe Dauman and Brad Grey had left it to fossilize, was doing exactly what she asked of him. Gianopulos swung the unit from a $450 million loss, in the year before he joined, to profitability; built a solid exec team; rebooted the Tom Clancy and Top Gun franchises; and created new ones with A Quiet Place and Sonic The Hedgehog.

But like her father in his heyday, Redstone was impatient. It’s an oversimplification to say she made an executive change because she wanted big movies like Quiet Place: Part II and Jackass Forever for Paramount+. But, yeah, she wanted those movies for Paramount+. She knows she’s got a limited window to gussy up Sumner’s media company and sell it before the whales of the streaming age are established and nobody needs a goldfish like ViacomCBS. And she had an executive, Brian Robbins, just sitting there at Nickelodeon, whispering in her ear that he was ready and willing to do her bidding, focusing the company on the streaming buzzwords of volume and stickiness rather than theatricality and long-term franchise building.