Cruise relaunches United Artists (Update)

WSJ is reporting that along with "substantial ownership," Cruise and partner Paula Wagner will have control of the company's production slate, from development to green-lighting. Presumably, the new UA would be tied to MGM, which announced the deal this morning. Cruise plans to star in and produce films for UA, though he would be available to other studios. MGM is owned by a group made up of Sony Corp., Comcast, Corp. and two major private-equity firms.

Update: Guess who brokered the deal? None other than Bert Fields. Here's the announcement:

"Partnering with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, we have the ideal creative foundation from which to reintroduce the United Artists brand," said MGM chairman and CEO Harry Sloan in making the announcement. "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."

Expect the Fairbanks/Pickford/Chaplin/Griffith angle to be thoroughly milked by the showbiz media (although many of them will first have to figure out what silent movies were). Certainly, UA has had some extraordinary ups and downs. The early years were arguably the least successful, with the studio pretty much shutting down in the 1940s. It was then resurrected over the years in various financial guises. The best years were probably in the late 1950s and 1960s (Billy Wilder, Joseph E. Levine, Saltzman and Brocolli, Blake Edwards). In 1967, UA was sold to insurance giant Transamerica Corp. The place hit some more high notes for another decade or so (Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Sylvester Stallone) before "Heaven's Gate." Now with MGM re-establishing itself in recent months as a standalone entity - and not a Sony appendage - a UA resurrection makes sense, although the Cruise/Wagner connection clearly came out of left field.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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