Amazon held a virtual town hall for employees Friday — its first since the tech giant’s $8.45 billion acquisition of the historic movie studio MGM closed Thursday. An individual with knowledge confirmed that during the meeting, Amazon revealed an interim leadership structure that would include MGM’s executives Mark Burnett, Michael De Luca and COO Christopher Brearton.
Mike Hopkins, Amazon Studios and Prime Video SVP, said in the town hall held in Amazon’s Culver City lot and viewed virtually, that Motion Picture Group chairman De Luca, Worldwide Television Group chairman Burnett and Brearton have all “joined my leadership team,” reporting to Hopkins. Amazon Studios chief Jen Salke will continue to report into Hopkins separately. It’s unclear the status of motion picture group president Pamela Abdy. It suggests that for the time being the three men will report directly to Hopkins.
Hopkins also said during the town hall that he was looking at how to best integrate the two teams. While still unclear, it’s expected that MGM’s approximately 800 employees are expected to make the shift over to Amazon and operate as an independent label, at least for the time being.
De Luca took over as chairman of MGM’s Motion Picture Group in January 2020, following Jonathan Glickman’s departure after a nine-year tenure, and Abdy joined as the Motion Picture Group president shortly thereafter in April 2020. As for Burnett, whose contract runs through this year, he’s been chairman of MGM Worldwide Television Group since 2018 and has been with the studio in some capacity since it acquired Burnett’s production companies, One Three Media and Lightworkers Media, in 2014. Epix president Michael Wright took over as head of MGM’s scripted TV department last year in addition to running the premium cable network after Steve Stark left in March 2021.
MGM brings to Amazon upwards of 4,000 films and 17,000 TV episodes, which Amazon said upon the deal’s closing will “complement Prime Video and Amazon Studios’ work in delivering a diverse offering of entertainment choices to customers.” Naturally, analysts expect Amazon to make the best use of MGM’s top intellectual property, which includes “Rocky/Creed,” “Tomb Raider” and “Legally Blonde” that are already in the MGM stable, and of course the James Bond franchise.
Though due to the unique nature of Bond’s rights with EON Productions, Amazon will still only have a 50% stake in the property, and creative control of the franchise remains with producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael J. Wilson. Both Broccoli and Wilson have also previously reiterated that even with the shift to a streamer like Amazon, they’re determined to make sure future Bond movies still have a “worldwide, theatrical audience.” Amazon, too, has been increasingly focused on prioritizing streaming, and it’s unclear how Amazon might handle a theatrical window with MGM films.
De Luca though had been expected to stay aboard and continue developing film projects on his own that fall within the MGM wheelhouse. Some recent releases that he landed or have greenlit have included the Best Picture nominee “Licorice Pizza,” the musical “Cyrano,” Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci,” Channing Tatum’s “Dog” and the upcoming remake of “Fiddler on the Roof,” to name a few.
On the TV side, Burnett has been behind prestige hits such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Fargo,” but other unscripted shows have slowed in recent years despite Burnett’s track record with “The Apprentice” and “The Voice,” among others. It’s also unclear what will be the fate of premium cable channel Epix.
This week, Amazon Studios made Julie Rapaport its sole head of movies, with Matt Newman transitioning to a role in Amazon’s sports group. Rapaport is reporting to Salke and has been co-head of movies with Newman since 2018.