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Brian Robbins has officially been named president and CEO of Paramount Pictures, replacing Jim Gianopulos as head of the studio behind the “Mission: Impossible” and “Transformers” franchises, and setting up a new era in the oversight of one of Hollywood’s big movie studios.
Robbins will take the reins while continuing in his current post as head of Nickelodeon and as the chief content officer of kids and family for Paramount Plus, the streaming service launched this year by Paramount’s parent company ViacomCBS. Gianopulos will serve in an advisory role at Paramount through the end of the year. The media conglomerate hopes that Robbins, who boasts digital savvy and a long history in kids programming, will help guide it as it looks ahead to a future dominated by streaming giants.
“Paramount is one of ViacomCBS’s crown jewels, delivering some of the most iconic moments in entertainment for more than a century. The moves we’re making today will build on Paramount’s strong momentum, ensuring it continues to engage audiences at scale while embracing viewers’ evolving tastes and habits,” said Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS. “A passionate storyteller who takes a holistic view of the entertainment ecosystem, Brian is an expert at building powerhouse global franchises by leaning into the unique strengths of new and established platforms – including theatrical releases, streaming, linear, consumer products and more.”
News of Robbins’ promotion leaked on Friday, stunning many studio insiders with the ouster of the well-liked Gianopulos, but a formal announcement came Monday. Robbins is a former child actor who once starred on ABC’s “Head of the Class.” He reinvented himself as a producer and director, overseeing such films as “Hardball,” “Varsity Blues,” and the critically pummeled “Norbit,” before becoming an entrepreneur. Robbins launched AwesomenessTV, a YouTube channel aimed at teenagers, which he later sold to DreamWorks Animation and then Viacom. After rejoining Viacom in 2018, Robbins led Paramount Players, a production division that created the likes of “What Men Want” and the live-action adaptation of “Dora the Explorer.”
Robbins reportedly sold ViacomCBS head Shari Redstone on his vision for the studio and his plans to shift its emphasis in the direction of feeding Paramount Plus with content as it struggles to compete with streaming giants like Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max. In his new capacity, Robbins will oversee films produced for Paramount Plus. His elevation could be destabilizing. Gianopulos has assembled a talented core of executives, many of whom, such as motion picture group president Emma Watts, worked with him previously during his long stint at 20th Century Fox. It’s unclear if they will stick around under a new regime.
At Paramount, Gianopulos restored the money-losing studio to profitability, oversaw box office hits such as “A Quiet Place” and “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and guided the company through the darkest days of the pandemic, selling movies like “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Without Remorse” to streaming services when theaters were shuttered.
He sounded a valedictory note in his statement. “I’ve been privileged to be part of this amazing world of film and television for almost 40 years, and at the heart, it was always driven by two principal things: the brilliant talent of storytellers, whose visionary expression excelled in every medium and whom I did my best to empower, and a fantastic team of colleagues who helped me make that happen,” he said. “I’ve been honored to help guide the evolution and massive expansion of creative content, from the birth of video to global TV access, to the launch of iTunes, to ubiquitous internet availability, and now the streaming revolution. The opportunity to take the reins at Paramount and revitalize it, build first-class executive and creative teams, and restore it to both profitability and creative success has been a source of pride. Brian has a long and successful career, and having worked closely with him, I know he and the team at Paramount will have great accomplishments in the future. I wish them all the very best success.”
“Jim is nothing less than legendary in this business, and I am humbled and grateful to him for his years of mentorship and friendship during our time working together,” said Robbins in his own statement. “I am excited about the future for Paramount Pictures, and I want to thank Bob Bakish for the opportunity to use this incredibly powerful and broad canvas to produce films for every audience and deliver them in the ways today’s consumers want to experience them.”
In addition to Robbins’ promotion, David Nevins, the longtime Showtime chief, will take on oversight of Paramount Television as the studio undergoes a restructuring and leadership change. Nicole Clemens, who has headed up Paramount TV since 2018, will now solely report to Nevins.
Variety's Brett Lang contributed to this post.