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Paramount Pictures

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Paramount's centennial logo

Paramount Pictures is the film production and distribution company that formerly owned the Star Trek franchise and which still holds the rights to the Star Trek feature films. Paramount is owned by the current version of the media conglomerate Viacom, which is in turn controlled by National Amusements.

Brad Grey, previously a television producer, is the current CEO. It is his intention to establish Paramount as a leading media company again, willing to take risks and lure creative talent back. As part of this venture, he lured Gail Berman (one of the original producers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) into the corporate offices as President.

Paramount Pictures has, for decades, operated its own theater, the Paramount Theatre of the Arts (notice British spelling), currently located at 2025 Broadway Oakland, California, for premiere viewings of its productions.

History with Star Trek Edit

Paramount formally acquired the Star Trek franchise on 27 July 1967 when Lucille Ball's Desilu Studios, the company producing Star Trek: The Original Series (as it was later coined, but then still officially known as simply Star Trek), was purchased for US$17 million dollar by Gulf+Western, which owned Paramount at the time. Paramount Pictures at that time operated its own, hitherto insignificant, television production department, into which Desilu was incorporated to form Paramount Television, through which it now produced and owned the Star Trek television series. As a result of Gulf+Western's purchasing of Desilu, Paramount not only came into ownership of Star Trek, but acquired, aside from the ones that were no longer produced, the three other Desilu television shows that were in production at the time, Mission: Impossible (referenced on Star Trek), Mannix and The Lucy Show, as well. It were actually these three productions, considered hugely successful at the time, that Paramount was particularly interested in, not Star Trek, which was essentially thrown into the deal. Viewed as a commercial failure at the time, Gulf+Western actually wanted to exclude Star Trek from the purchase deal initially, or as then Desilu executive Herb Solow had later put it, "Paramount didn't want Star Trek, because it was losing too much money each week and didn't have enough episodes to syndicate successfully. That was a wise business decision at the time." Yet, Ball only wanted to sell her company wholesale, lock, stock and barrel, forcing a reluctant Paramount to also accept the legal liabilities of the unwanted property. (NBC: America's Network, p. 218)

Later that summer, alarmed by his financial auditors, Gulf+Western founder, co-owner, president and driving force behind the acquisition, Charles Bluhdorn, visited the set of Star Trek in person to witness a day of production for himself. Finding it an underwhelming experience, what he saw on that day made him highly skeptical, but, even hough it was his prerogative as the temporary chairman of the board of Paramount Pictures, he stopped short of actually ordaining the cancellation[1] of the series. Instead, he had a small army of financial executives and accountants descend on Star Trek to go through the finances of the production with a fine comb, which inevitably resulted in more severe budget slashes and creative meddlement from the uninitiated. This turned out to be the reason for the subsequent departure of the driving forces behind the show, Solow, and the producers Gene Roddenberry and, at a later stage, Robert Justman. It was this circumstance that was highly influential in the decision to cancel Star Trek as soon as possible at the time, which – even though Gulf+Western's financial experts, balking at the by them perceived too high production costs, were pushing for it – was ultimately a call made by television network NBC. Since, due to original contractual obligations, net profits (non-existent at the time) had to be shared between the studio, Roddenberry's production company Norway Corporation, performer William Shatner and NBC, Paramount went even as far as offering Roddenberry in 1970 the opportunity to obtain the Star Trek property he had created for US$150,000. Roddenberry however, was nowhere near able to raise this amount on his own, and the property remained were it was, which turned out to be fortuitous for the studio as, again as per Solow, "History would show that Gulf & Western's purchase of Star Trek alone, the low-rated, money-losing second-year series on NBC, would become one of the most spectacular business moves in entertainment history." (NBC: America's Network, p. 220; Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997, pp. 360-et al.)

Yet, very shortly after the studio had made Roddenberry the offer, Paramount found that its hot potato was quickly turning into a hot property due to its huge and unexpected success in syndication in the early 1970s. In effect, the very first time Paramount sold syndication rights was already in 1969 while the third season was still being aired on NBC. The buyer, Kaiser Broadcasting (which operated a small chain of local television stations along the West, and East Coast), immediately started to broadcast Star Trek after NBC had canceled the series on a daily basis and, much to their delight, observed a steep rise in viewership. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997, pp. 417-418) The phenomenon was not lost on other local television stations, and thus the spectacular resurgence of Star Trek in syndication started. By early 1987, when a new television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, went into pre-production, Variety magazine of 2 December 1991, was able to report that the Original Series had netted the studio over US$1 million dollar per episode in domestic syndication fees alone – and thus excluding the by then substantial sales revenues abroad, as well as discounting the profits to be shared with the other stakeholders, mentioned above. Considering the average production cost of US$190,000 per episode, this turned out to be a more than healthy return on investment, especially since Paramount had not borne the costs of the, relatively most expensive, first season of a production that was essentially thrown into the deal. (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, p. 6)

By 1974, Bluhdorn had completely reversed his stance from the one he had back in 1967, and had by now become enamored with Star Trek due to its huge and unexpected success in syndication, embracing the property as something of a pet project. It was therefore, after he had been presented by a subordinate with the idea of turning Star Trek into a movie, that he gave Barry Diller, freshly appointed in October 1974 a the new studio head, as one of his consignments, to turn the idea into a project. Not particularly interested in doing Star Trek in any format whatsoever and, by any standard, a formidable executive himself, Diller nevertheless did not want to antagonize his new boss and his new-found infatuation with Star Trek by refusing and set to work. Still, getting Star Trek off the ground again as a new live-action production turned out to be not as straightforward as it originally sounded, and for three years the project stubbornly refused to come into fruition. However, when Diller thought up a fourth television network for the company, Paramount Television Services, officially announced on 10 June 1977, he intended Star Trek to serve as its flagship as a new television series, Star Trek: Phase II (or Star Trek II as its official title was to be). Fully endorsed by Bluhdorn, who sensed an even more profitable repeat performance of the property, actual production of a new live-action production was finally started the same month. His initial enthusiasm notwithstanding, Bluhdorn soon found out that America was not yet ready for a fourth television network, as advertiser's interest did not materialize and he already pulled the plug on the network project near the end of July. Still, he allowed the production of Star Trek to continue, which was, aside from his own personal interest, in no small part due to the desire not to loose development costs already sunk in all previous revitalization attempts. Star Trek: Phase II eventually morphed into Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Partly due to the studio's hitherto utter lack of experience with a technically complex and visual effects heavy production of this magnitude, the production of The Motion Picture proved to be exceptionally difficult, troublesome, frustrating and, for those times, extremely costly. As a result, Diller and his executive subordinates (close to nervous exhaustion) were bracing themselves for a financial disaster, which fortunately for them did not materialize. Immensely relieved of having dodged the financial bullet, Diller and his colleagues counted their blessings and were fully prepared to move on, entirely willing to leave Star Trek behind them. Yet, Bluhdorn was of different mind and ordered the development of sequels shortly after the premiere of The Motion Picture in early 1980. Bluhdorn personally selected Harve Bennett who would head, as executive producer, the production of the subsequent four Star Trek films, of which two, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, would become particularly successful. For all intents and purposes, it was therefore Bluhdorn, who was responsible for the creation of the Star Trek movie franchise. (The Keys to the Kingdom, Chapters 5-7) For a more detailed treatise on the difficult birth of the movie franchise, please refer to: Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Production

For all the troubles The Motion Picture represented for the studio as far as the production itself was concerned, it also represented the birth of the modern moneymaking property the studio was to eventually refer to as "The Franchise". Responsible for this was Vice-president of Marketing and Licensing, Dawn Steel, who was charged with coming up with an additional revenue stream after the February 1979 visual effects crisis during the Motion Picture production. She did so by organizing a vigorous merchandising and licensing fund drive, which climaxed in a highly imaginative presentation, held in the largest theater on the Paramount lot. A resounding success, the presentation was met with rambunctious enthusiasm by the attending prospective licensee companies. "It was the most unbelievable party Paramount ever had.", attending studio producer, Brian Grazer, remembered, to which then novice studio producer Jerry Bruckheimer has admiringly added, "She went to conventions and got every toy-maker, anyone who made T-shirts and key chains and raised every nickel she could. She shook the trees. There hasn't been that energy vortex in merchandise since she left.". Numerous companies signed up, including, at the time, unusual ones such as food industry corporations like Coca-Cola and McDonald's. The presentation marked the first time for Paramount that licensing revenues were generated, before a production had premiered. The successful fund drive made Steel's name in the motion picture industry, and a thoroughly impressed Paramount CEO Michael Eisner, who was (in)famous for not being easily impressed, promoted her the next day to vice-president of productions in features, getting her off to a stellar industry career. She had been working in the licensing department for less than six months. (New York Magazine, 29 May 1989, p. 45; 6 September 1993, p. 40; Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History, pp. 108-109)

For obvious reasons, Hollywood studios had, and to this day, have been exceptionally loathe to divulge particulars surrounding their revenue streams stemming from licensing and merchandising efforts, Star Trek not excepted. However, Steel, due to the unexpected and exceptional success of her 1979 fund drive, had understandably been somewhat more loose-lipped, unable to resist some bragging at the time. Revealing in January 1980 that General Mills featured Star Trek artwork on 37 million of their cereal boxes, McDonald's had spent US$20 million dollar on TV adds to promote 50 million Star Trek themed "Happy Meals", and that Bally had by that time already totaled up a sale of US$19.5 million of US$1.795 apiece Star Trek themed pin-ball machines, alone, she divulged that by that time she expected that at the most conservative estimations, licensed Star Trek related merchandise would at least amount to US$250 million dollar, with the possibility to reach double that. "Licensed children's merchandise is the last category to suffer in a recession: Dad will give up his suits, but his kids will still get toys and clothes.", she clarified, adding, "Our fee ranges from one to 11 percent, depending on the product." This statement indicated that the studio was to receive at the very least US$2.5 million, or at the very most US$55 million dollar in licensing and merchandising revenues, though it was unlikely that the upper estimate was ever met due to the mixed reception of the movie and the somewhat disappointing sales of related merchandise. (Playboy magazine, January 1980, p. 310)

Concurrently, parent company Gulf+Western, through Bluhdorn, had commissioned the development of an accompanying, The Motion Picture-themed, book line through subsidiary Pocket Books, which it had acquired in 1975 (and therefore a sister company of Paramount Pictures), and from here on end merchandising and licensing became an integral part of a proactive overall marketing strategy (considerably hammered out by Frank Mancuso, Sr., who was hired as the department's president after Steel had left), in the creation of a sustained Star Trek product line. [1]

Paramount, which came under ownership of the former Viacom when that company took over the remnants of Gulf+Western in 1994, produced and distributed all subsequent Star Trek films and television shows from 1982 through 2005 (the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise). The late Brandon Tartikoff was chairman of Paramount Pictures in 1991 and 1992, during Star Trek: The Next Generation's fifth and sixth seasons, and it was he, impressed with the success of the six (at the time) Star Trek films and The Next Generation, who initiated the creation of a third live action Star Trek series to launch into syndication, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Trek: The Unauthorized Behind-The-Scenes Story of The Next Generation; DS9 Season 1 DVD-special feature, "A Bold New Beginning")

By this time the studio's stance and attitude towards Star Trek had radically changed from the one it had back in 1967, as author Stephen Edward Poe observed two years later when he resided at the studio on an extended stay in order to chronicle the genesis of the fourth live action Star Trek series, Star Trek: Voyager. Poe noticed that studio employees, executives included, were almost unanimously and reverently referring to their Star Trek property as "The Franchise" due to its reliable and consistent revenue stream, having been from the mid-1980s through the 1990s Paramount's most profitable property, much to the envy of industry competitors[2]. (Star Trek: Voyager - A Vision of the Future, pp. 50-51) Reporter Mark A. Altman disclosed that the entire franchise had already passed the US$1 billion dollar mark in total studio revenues by 1993. (Cinefantastique, Vol 24 #3/4, p. 16) Voyager itself was actually conceived to serve as the flagship of Paramount's second attempt of operating a television network, established in 1994 as United Paramount Network (UPN). Unlike its unsuccessful 1977 predecessor, UPN fared somewhat better, only ceasing to exist in 2006, after it had aired the fifth live action Star Trek series, Star Trek: Enterprise.

Paramount Television remained a dependent division of Paramount Pictures until 2006. In 2006, the former Viacom was split into two separate companies: CBS Corporation and a new Viacom. CBS Corporation was given ownership of Paramount Television, which was renamed CBS Paramount Television, currently known as CBS Television Studios, and thus gained ownership of the Star Trek franchise and television series, while Paramount Pictures, now part of the new Viacom, retained the rights to the Star Trek films through a license from CBS Television Studios.

More recently, Paramount Pictures had finished developing the 2009 feature film Star Trek and its 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, directed and produced by J.J. Abrams. The next Trek project is the 2016 sequel Star Trek Beyond.

Studio executives actively involved with Star Trek productions Edit

(Note: This list is currently incomplete.)

In the list below, the name of the executive producers for any given production is mentioned after its title. Formally, they are not part of the studio executive staff, but the creative managerial heads of the actual productions, and as such officially credited, which studio executives – Original Series executives Bill Heath, Herb Solow, Douglas S. Cramer and The Motion Picture's Lindsley Parsons, Jr. being the notably sole exceptions – are traditionally not. Yet, they do serve as the primary liaison between the actual productions and the studio oversight and consequently, they are answerable to studio executives. Note that even the highest Paramount executives had bosses; Diller, for example, was answerable to Gulf+Western President Bluhdorn, who, while relatively far removed from the production, did make some momentous decisions concerning the Star Trek movie franchise, aside from being responsible for acquiring the franchise for Paramount in the first place. Also listed are the executives involved with the Star Trek television franchise, since these productions were until 2006 part of Paramount Pictures, as explained above.

note: Executives listed in order of hierarchy

Further reading regarding Star Trek studio involvementEdit

Historical overview Edit

Founded by Adolph Zukor in 1912, Paramount Pictures is America's second oldest, still-operating, motion picture studio behind Universal Studios. Its logo – the highly-recognizable, majestic Paramount mountain – has been part of the company from the beginning, thus making it the oldest surviving Hollywood film logo.

Paramount Pictures was the company responsible for the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, the silent 1927 World War I picture Wings. Since then, Paramount has produced the Academy Award-winning films Going My Way (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), The Godfather (1972), The Godfather, Part II (1974), Ordinary People (1980), Terms of Endearment (1983), Forrest Gump (1994), Braveheart (1995), and Titanic (1997). Among the other acclaimed films they have produced are Double Indemnity (1944), Stalag 17 (1953), The War of the Worlds (1953, based on the book by H.G. Wells), The Ten Commandments (1956), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Chinatown (1974), Saturday Night Fever (1977), Grease (1978), Top Gun (1986), Fatal Attraction (1987), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and Zodiac (2007).

Since Star Trek was owned by Paramount Television, many of Paramount Pictures' classic films have been featured or referenced on the various shows, including I'm No Angel (1933), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Shane (1953), To Catch a Thief (1955), and Rosemary's Baby (1968). The former two are now under ownership of Universal Studios as they own most pre-1950 Paramount sound features.

Upon the acquirement of Desilu, Paramount Pictures turned two other former Desilu properties into franchises by releasing in 1987 an acclaimed feature film adaptation of The Untouchables (originally an older Desilu television series, also referenced on Star Trek), and by releasing in 1996 the first film of the highly successful Mission: Impossible film franchise starring Tom Cruise. Other television series they subsequently produced included The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Taxi, Cheers, MacGyver, Wings, Frasier, 7th Heaven, and The 4400. They also continued to produce the news magazine Entertainment Tonight.

In addition to Mission: Impossible and Star Trek, Paramount Pictures also holds the rights to such successful franchises as Beverly Hills Cop, Friday the 13th, Indiana Jones, and the films featuring Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan character (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, etc.).

In 2003, Paramount Pictures relaunched itself, with a new CGI logo, nicknamed the "CGI Majestic Mountain." In 2005, following the CBS/Viacom split, Paramount Pictures purchased the production company DreamWorks SKG.

On 8 July 2007, Paramount Pictures set the record for fastest studio to earn $1 billion at the US box office in a single year, reaching the mark after 189 days. This is the first time they have held this record since 1998. [2] This achievement is due primarily to the success of the Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks release of Transformers, written by Star Trek (2009) scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.

The studio's 2008 slate of film releases began with the release of the J.J. Abrams-produced Cloverfield on 18 January 2008. This film, which only cost US$25 million to make, earned US$40 million at the box office in its opening weekend – the best January opening on record. It was the studio's 10th biggest opening after Shrek the Third, Transformers, War of the Worlds, Mission: Impossible II, Mission: Impossible III, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Longest Yard, Mission: Impossible, and Deep Impact. Cloverfield broke the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend record, as well, with a four-day total of US$46 million. [3] [4] Cloverfield is also notable as the film to which the first official teaser trailer for 2009's Star Trek was attached.

Paramount's other films opening in 2008 include The Spiderwick Chronicles, Stop-Loss, the highly-anticipated Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the Marvel Comics-based Iron Man, the animated Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar: The Crate Escape, The Love Guru, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Iron Man earned $98.6 million on its opening weekend, marking the studio's best opening for a live-action release. [5] In 2009, in addition to Star Trek, Paramount is slated to release films such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (also co-written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman), Nowhereland (starring Eddie Murphy, Vanessa Williams and Ronny Cox), and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (starring Rachel Nichols).

Paramount Studios sound stages Edit

During production on Star Trek, Paramount Studios had thirty-two sound stages that varied in size from the smallest, Stage 22, to the largest, Stage 16, the former one never utilized by Star Trek. (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, p. 49)

See also Edit

Footnotes Edit

  1. Ironically, it was the immensely popular The Lucy Show that got canceled immediately, as its star performer Lucille Ball left the very same day the sale of her company was formalized. Emphatically declining to work any longer on her own creation under new ownership, she immediately founded a new production company, Lucille Ball Productions, to the very specific end of producing a revamped version of her popular show, Here's Lucy, which enjoyed an equally successful six year run.
  2. It was by no means a coincidence that Warner Bros' Babylon 5, concurrently premiering around the same time as Deep Space Nine, resembled Paramount's by then well-oiled marketing of Star Trek in more than one respect. Yet, while the Babylon 5-franchise enjoyed a considerable measure of success while its original series was produced and aired, it eventually fell apart after the failure of its spin-off series and movies, which resulted in that Babylon 5 had nowhere near the longevity the Star Trek-franchise enjoyed.

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