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Paramount boss steps down after 18 months

Paramount Pictures Corp. President Gail Berman has stepped down 18 months after joining the ailing studio with a mandate to turn it around.
File photo of Gail Berman accepting her award at The Producers Guild of America's 3rd annual Celebration of Diversity dinner in Beverly Hills
Gail BermanJim Ruymen / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Paramount Pictures Corp. President Gail Berman has stepped down 18 months after joining the ailing studio with a mandate to turn it around.

Berman’s exit, announced late Wednesday, came as Brad Grey, Paramount’s chairman and chief executive, decided to streamline the studio’s management structure, including eliminating Berman’s position.

The heads of Paramount’s various film studio divisions — Paramount Pictures, MTV Films/Nickelodeon Movies, Paramount Vantage and DreamWorks — will report directly to Grey. All the division heads, except for DreamWorks’ top executive, had previously reported to Berman.

“This new arrangement further fine-tunes our label strategy, and creates a clear path for targeted development for the Paramount slate,” Grey said in a statement.

Paramount, which is a unit of Viacom Inc., also announced that Allison Shearmur, Paramount Pictures’ co-president of production, was also stepping down, effective immediately.

The studio said Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks will each release between six and eight films a year. The MTV/Nickelodeon division will release between four and six films annually, while Paramount Vantage puts out up to 10, the company said.

The Paramount statement credited Berman with helping improve fortunes at the studio through a spate of recent films, including “Nacho Libre,” “Dreamgirls,” and “World Trade Center.”

“Gail’s dedication in the last 18 months has been invaluable during this important and historic time at Paramount,” Grey said. “We respect and appreciate her contributions in reshaping the direction of Paramount Pictures.”

In the studio’s statement, Berman said she was grateful “for the chance to help bring great films to life and look forward to new professional opportunities ahead.”

Calls to a Paramount spokeswoman were not returned Wednesday.

Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone told the Los Angeles Times he supported Grey’s decision to sever ties with Berman.

“If Brad decided she was not for Paramount, then Brad was right,” he said.

Redstone declined to comment on what Berman’s exit settlement would cost Viacom.

Berman was Grey’s first high-profile hire at Paramount. Both executives came from the world of television.

Before joining Paramount, Berman served as president of entertainment for the Fox Broadcasting Co. for five years.

As a producer, she helped develop the TV shows “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” She had had mixed results at Fox, especially with introducing a year-round schedule.

When she joined Paramount in 2005, Berman was the first female executive to have held the top posts at a major film studio and television network.