Mary Parent, the former vice chairman of worldwide production at Universal Pictures, has joined MGM as chairperson, worldwide motion picture group. She will be responsible for oversight of worldwide theatrical production, distribution, marketing and business affairs for the company.

She reports directly to Harry E Sloan, chairman and CEO of MGM and to the studio's board of directors.

The appointment signals MGM's ambitions to rebuild itself as a fully operational production studio with a full slate of its own films to release each year.

Since taking control of MGM in Oct 2005, Sloan has been committed to rebuilding MGM's domestic theatrical distribution operation which sourced product from suppliers like The Weinstein Company, Lakeshore Entertainment and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. He also kickstarted worldwide TV operations and worldwide video distribution in partnership with 20th Century Fox.

In Nov 2006, he recruited Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner to restart the dormant United Artists label backed by a $500m production facility from Merrill Lynch and last year cleared the way to partner with Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema on two movies based on The Hobbit.

The Parent hire is the first step in kickstarting development and production.

'MGM is in the midst of an evolutionary process, moving from our initial revitalization effort into the next phase of growth and development,' he said in a statement. 'As we commence production on some of the biggest film franchises in Hollywood, we are fortunate to be able to enlist Mary to spearhead what promises to be MGM's most exciting period yet. Her production expertise, relationships in the creative community and distribution and marketing savvy will be instrumental in confirming MGM's position as a competitive player alongside other major Hollywood studios.'

Parent started her career as an agent trainee at ICM, seguing into production roles at New Line. In 1997, she joined Universal as senior vice president and rose steadily through the ranks to become vice chairman in 2003. Since 2005, she has been partnered with Scott Stuber in an exclusive producing deal on the Universal lot.

While at Universal, she oversaw the development and production of hits including Meet The Parents and Meet The Fockers, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Gladiator, the American Pie films and the first two Bourne films.

MGM is partnered with Sony Pictures in two new films this year - the latest James Bond film Quantum Of Solace which opens on Nov 7 and The Pink Panther 2 which will open early next year. The studio will release the first big budget release from UA - Bryan Singer's Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise - on Oct 3.

Parent will focus on Bond and Pink Panther as well as other movie franchises in MGM's library such as The Thomas Crown Affair 2, The Outer Limits, Robocop, Death Wish and Fame among others.

'The challenge is to build a development slate,' Parent told Screen yesterday. 'I have a lot to draw from already and a lot that can be built upon successfully. The plan is to build a top-tier studio which is on a competitive level with the other studios. Money is not an issue.'

'Harry has laid the groundwork for a very streamlined operation,' she continued. 'So while I am a buyer again, I am also not too far removed from the film-making process.' She said her development activities would be targeted and not wasteful.

She added that the emergence of an aggressive new buyer in Hollywood would benefit the whole industry which has just lost a major buyer in New Line Cinema.

Rick Sands remains in position as MGM's chief operating officer.

Current MGM ownership is as follows: Providence Equity Partners (29%), TPG (21%), Sony Corporation of America (20%), Comcast (20%), DLJ Merchant Banking Partners (7%) and Quadrangle Group (3%).