Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Name New Chairmen

Former Marketers Fogelson, Ross Take Over After Bumpy Summer for Film Companies

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After a hot summer at the box office cooled off by Labor Day, movie studios are beginning to shuffle players in the C-suite, hoping to get back on track for fall and 2010.

Adam Fogelson
Adam Fogelson Credit: Robert Benson
Universal Pictures is dismissing co-chairs Marc Shmuger and David Linde in favor of the studio's marketing chief, Adam Fogelson, who was named Ad Age's Entertainment Marketer of the Year in May.

Separately, Walt Disney Studios is naming Rich Ross, current president of Disney Channel, as its new chairman, replacing Dick Cook, who was ousted by Disney Chairman Bob Iger three weeks ago. Mr. Ross, a 2008 Ad Age Entertainment Marketer of the Year, will oversee Walt Disney, Touchstone, Miramax and Disney/Pixar studios, as well as the company's theatrical and music groups.

At Universal, Mr. Fogelson will be joined by Donna Langley as co-chairman, helping him run Universal's worldwide Motion Picture Group, while continuing to oversee all production and adding responsibility for indie labels Focus Features and Working Title films.

Rick Finkelstein will remain vice chairman-chief operating officer, working with both Mr. Fogelson and Ms. Langley as a strategic adviser for worldwide home entertainment, TV distribution, business affairs and strategic alliances.

All will continue to report to Universal Studios' president-chief operating officer, Ron Meyer, who said in a statement that "Adam is a natural leader with a unique ability to anticipate our audience, understand our business and collaborate with our filmmakers to give us a competitive advantage. He is well-respected within our community, deservedly so, and together with his team, I believe we are strategically poised for our future."

Mr. Fogelson's promotion comes at a time when he had to market what's turned out to be a weak 2009 slate for Universal. Despite an early triumph in the form of "Fast & Furious," an $85 million fourth-in-a-franchise film that went on to gross a surprise $322 million worldwide, the rest of the year has been less than stellar. Potential summer tentpoles "Bruno," "Funny People" and "Land of the Lost" fell on bad buzz after early hype, grossing $59.9 million, $51.8 million and $49.3 million, respectively, the latter falling far short of recouping its $100 million budget. Only "Inglourious Basterds," a production co-financed by The Weinstein Co., became a breakout hit, grossing $114.4 million and counting domestically.

The fall got off to a weak start with the low-grossing Jennifer Aniston vehicle "Love Happens," but could see a resurgence this weekend in the form of "Couples Retreat," a Vince Vaughn comedy anticipated to debut to $30 million in its first three days. The rest of the year has kiddie flick "The Vampire's Assistant," alien drama "The Fourth Kind" and the Nancy Meyers comedy "It's Complicated."

Disney's Mr. Ross, meanwhile, will be charged with steering a development slate that currently includes a 3-D "Christmas Carol" remake, the Robin Williams-John Travolta vehicle "Old Dogs" and animated fairy tale "The Princess & The Frog" in 2009, with Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," swords-and-sandals epic "Clash of the Titans" and Pixar's super-sequel "Toy Story 3" on deck for 2010.

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