Fri, Nov 05, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Lansing falls out of favor in shake-up

The head of Paramount Pictures, Sherry Lansing, is quitting at the top

AFP , LOS ANGELES

Ben Affleck gives Sherry Lansing some love. Lansing was taking all the comfort she could get after losing her job at Paramount Pictures.

PHOTO: AFP

Paramount Pictures' chief Sherry Lansing, the first woman ever to head a major Hollywood studio, will step down from her powerful post after 12 years, she announced earlier this week.

Lansing, 60, under whose tenure the studio produced mega-hits such as Forrest Gump, Braveheart and Mission Impossible, said she would quit as chairman of Paramount Motion Picture Group when her contract expires at the end of next year.

The departure of the former actress and model marks a watershed for the lady who paved the way for powerful women in Tinseltown. It is a milestone in Hollywood history and comes as the studio battles to reverse a slump in its box office fortunes.

Lansing said she informed the co-president of Paramount's parent company Viacom, Tom Freston, of her move well in advance so that the group would have time to find a replacement.

"After a great deal of thought, I informed Tom Freston that I do not intend to renew my contract," she said in a statement.

"I'll have been in this job for 12 years and have had the opportunity and the privilege to work with the very best the entertainment industry has to offer," Lansing added.

"I have been able to accomplish more than I could have hoped for in the motion picture business. I move on with great memories, many friendships and few regrets. But now it is time for new challenges."

Groundbreaker Lansing cleared the way for other women to rise in the ranks in male-dominated Hollywood after she became its first female head of production when she won that post at 20th Century Fox in 1980.

Seen as an unflappable executive in one of the most high-pressure posts in the entertainment industry, she oversaw such classic productions as The China Syndrome, Fatal Attraction and The Accused with Jodie Foster.

Her departure as the head of the 92-year-old Paramount Pictures comes amid a general reorganization at Viacom that saw Lansing's co-head at Paramount, Jonathan Dolgen, leave in June.

That shake-up took place shortly after Freston and CBS chief Les Moonves became Viacom's

co-president's earlier in June.

But Lansing's departure also follows period during which Paramount produced more box office misses than hits as competition between Tinseltown studios increased.

Paramount has been perceived as having played it too safe with the projects it has chosen to back over the past three years.

Last weekend's disappointing performance of Paramount's remake of the 1966 Michael Caine hit Alfie, starring Jude Law and Susan Sarandon, has served to add to that impression.

But chiefs of the media giant Viacom had only praise for Lansing following her announcement that she would stand down.

"Few have had as long and as successful a career in running a movie studio as Sherry Lansing," Freston said.

"She leaves at the top of the game and I am sure she will end up right back at the top of whatever she chooses to do next."

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