MGM Bites Back

MGM is Los Angeles’ sleeping lion. The Hollywood studio has struggled in recent years to compete with its local rivals, not helped by much corporate uncertainty. However, the company has put in place a battleplan that should see it rev up production in the TV world, and take a more hands on approach to international distribution.

Gary Marenzi, co-president of worldwide television distribution, tells TBIvision that it has begun to look for opportunities outside of the United States. The studio has recently set up two major projects with British public broadcaster the BBC. It is co-producing a TV remake of Robert De Niro-fronted action movie Ronin with Spooks indie Kudos and is producing a 4x1hour mini series based on Meryl Streep’s 1981 drama The French Lieutenant’s Woman. "The whole game is changing," says Marenzi.

The company also has a number of other projects in development, including a television revamp of Howard Webster’s graphic novel and online virtual game The Many Worlds of Jonas Moore, and a two hour pilot for US cable network Spike TV based on the Irish Mob in Boston, produced by Walter Hill (Alien vs Predator) and Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White.

Former Universal exec Mary Parent is now heading up the studio’s feature production business and Marenzi says this has had a positive knock on effect for the TV business. "We’ve talked with Mary Parent about a lot of projects that might not work as a feature but would work as a TV series," he says. Following the writer’s strike, MGM is looking to ink deals with major producers that had their studio deals terminated. "A lot of A-list producers are coming to us and looking to partner on TV series. Now is a great time [particularly] for cable programming," he adds. It also sees its library as potential leverage. "Looking at the library, we could see a credible network quality producer do a TV take on one of our library such as 20,000 Leagues under the Sea."

Marenzi is also keen to ramp up the company’s international distribution business. While, it has seen much success selling movies such as the upcoming James Bond feature Quantum of Solace to international broadcasters, and has sold series such as G4’s adult cartoon Spaceballs to USA Network Latin America, it is also eyeing third party opportunities and a move into the formats world. "There’s a lot of indie product that’s good and we’d like to take a look," he says.

MGM produces light entertainment format American Gladiators for NBC, but the format is currently sold by ShineReveille International. Marenzi says in future it could jump into the international formats business. "In the future we could look to set up a joint venture to sell formats."

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