In a deal intended to capture the spirit of Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and D W Griffith, Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner are reviving the United Artists (UA) label with MGM. Nine weeks after Cruise Wagner parted company with Paramount Pictures, the producing partners have bounced back with a deal that gives them substantial ownership and conditional power to greenlight and set the slate.
Wagner becomes chief executive officer of UA and will oversee day-to-day operations alongside Cruise, who will produce and star in projects and has the option to star in productions for other studios. It is understood the deal has been in the works for five weeks.
MGM will fully finance all projects and bring in partners where appropriate. The initial aim is to put out four projects a year, which will be mostly productions and may include occasional acquisitions.
MGM will handle all domestic theatrical and worldwide television distribution, with Fox Home Entertainment handling worldwide video releases and Fox International overseeing foreign theatrical distribution.
Cruise Wagner will not be the sole supplier of content for UA and will continue to exist as a brand with separate projects in development. The Mission: Impossible franchise, for example, remains a Paramount Pictures property.
The first UA projects are expected to be announced shortly.
"Having Tom and Paula as partners is a tremendous opportunity that doesn't come along all the time," MGM chief operating officer Rick Sands said. "Harry [Sloan, MGM owner] and I were trying to reinvent MGM and do things as efficiently as possible,"
"The UA name has such historical significance as an artist-friendly environment and we want to resuscitate that so they can pursue their creative vision."
"Tom and I are looking to re-establish the classic UA brand, which was one of the foundations of the film studio system in Hollywood," Wagner said.
"We want to make films with artists and create a talent-friendly environment that's conducive to creative discourse and do it in a fiscally responsible way. We won't be genre-specific - we're very open to looking at all types of films."