With Peter Chernin’s departure from News Corp., Hollywood loses a beloved, entertainment-savvy media exec. Will anyone at the conglomerate be watching Fox’s film and TV divisions as shrewdly as he did?
Chernin rose up through the industry ranks and has more recently overseen News Corp’s movie and TV divisions on the West Coast while Rupert Murdoch has been busy building up his newspaper holdings back East.
And now, as Fox’s film studio is coming off a rough year, it’s lost its leader. Sure, Rupert is slated to take over Chernin’s entertainment duties, but he hasn’t seemed particularly interested in that side of the conglomerate.
To be fair, Fox has been doing well for the past three months, thanks to Slumdog Millionaire, Marley & Me and Taken. But last year was a disaster, with the studio cranking out a series of box-office disappointments and only releasing two films that made more than $100 million domestically: last spring’s animated Horton Hears A Who and Marley. 20th Century Fox has long been a bonafide hitmaker, last year notwithstanding, and we still think it’s poised to make a major comeback this year. But if it doesn’t bounce back, is Rupert the guy to fix the problem.
Or will he hire some outside studio veteran to oversee Fox’s entertainment division? Or will he promote one of 20th Century Fox’s co-CEOs, Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman?
In his staff memo, Murdoch said News Corp. plans to develop “a streamlined management structure between our Los Angeles based business units and the rest of the company,” which The Wall Street Journal interpreted to mean more responsibility handed over to film execs like Gianopulos, Rothman and Fox Searchlight head Peter Rice. Hmmmm…
Chernin’s other big entertainment industry legacy was his instrumental role, along with Bob Iger and Les Moonves, in resolving the writers’ strike in early 2008. Now that the Screen Actors Guild has rejected the studios’ last, best, final offer, and the actors enter their ninth month without a contract, the triumverate may need to intervene again. Will Chernin be interested in taking a seat at the table?