UPDATED with confirmation and exit memos: MGM motion picture group chairman Michael De Luca and president Pam Abdy are leaving the studio, sources said. This follows the acquisition of the studio by Amazon.
As the pieces fall into place on merged studios like Warner Bros. Discovery (which has recently been a rumored landing place for De Luca and Abdy), the pending development sheds light on how Amazon will merge the assets of the venerable MGM into Amazon after the latter paid $8.45 billion for the studio and its 4,000-title library. De Luca has been rumored for numerous other jobs, but had a contract that would run through early next year. Now that they’ve been let out, they will be able to take one of the opportunities out there. MGM is likely to run as a theatrical-fueled sister to Amazon, and they will look to hire a new head to run that studio. That scenario would favor the position of United Artists Releasing, the Erik Lomis- and Gerry Rich-led distributor that oversaw the release of No Time to Die, House of Gucci, Dog, Cyrano, Respect, Addams Family and Wrath of Man. That company is co-owned by Annapurna, but there’s ever reason it would come under the Amazon fold and continue to theatrically release and market MGM fare.
He and Abdy have made the most of their time at MGM, regularly battling for big star packages and landing some. That included Project Hail Mary, an adaptation of The Martian author Andy Weir that has Ryan Gosling starring and Phil Lord & Christopher Miller directing. A well-regarded picture picker going back to his days at New Line and continuing at Sony before he became a producer at Universal, De Luca began to gather a foundation of auteur filmmakers. The first offering there was Licorice Pizza from Paul Thomas Anderson, who made Boogie Night and Magnolia with De Luca back in those salad days.
On the Amazon side, the film division has stepped up from prestige fare like Manchester By the Sea and The Big Sick to films like the Michael B. Jordan-starrer Without Remorse, the George Clooney-directed The Tender Bar, and the Chris Pine starrer All the Old Knives.
It had been an open question whether De Luca and Abdy would take control of the picture business at Amazon the way they did at MGM, or would they report to head Jennifer Salke, who has steered both television and film through head of movies Julie Rapaport. As often happens, the advantage falls to the incumbent. And despite glowing stories on De Luca and Abdy that gave the impression they were coming in to run the film program, it looks like Amazon and Salke are remaining loyal to her team and the big benefit of the mammoth MGM deal is the library, and a stake in the James Bond franchise, even though the producers of the latter prize the theatrical run and wouldn’t likely transfer the franchise to a streaming focus.
There are rumors that De Luca and Abdy wanted MGM to remain a separate film studio from Amazon, something that the new owners were unwilling to grant. De Luca had a strong producing business when he returned to the executive suite, and good talent relationships. It will be interesting to see where he next lands, which likely will be in tandem with Abdy.
Story is developing. For the moment, here are internal memos just sent out by De Luca and Abdy, and by Mike Hopkins, SVP Prime Video & Amazon Studios:
A little over two years ago we came to MGM to help restore its vibrancy among the storied studios of the last century and we are proud to say, thanks to all of you and your efforts, it is mission accomplished. With our goal achieved, and as we look ahead, we feel now is the right time for us to move on and explore our next chapter and challenge. We will depart our roles this summer. We are confident that the exciting vision Prime Video and Amazon Studios has for MGM and the organization Mike Hopkins is building along with Jennifer Salke and team, will guarantee MGM’s continued success.
Beginning with our arrival in early 2020, we were given the opportunity to revitalize and quickly grow MGM’s film slate by creating a home for the world’s best storytellers to make films for global audiences. We could not have imagined that shortly after our arrival the world would be impacted by a pandemic that essentially shut down our industry, nor could we have foreseen the various immediate and longer term challenges the pandemic would put in our path.
With the support of every member of MGM’s production team, and with our filmmaking partners by our side, we were able to get back to making movies and ultimately put in motion a deep bench of films, from filmmakers including Ridley Scott, Paul Thomas Anderson, Joe Wright, Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin, Ron Howard, George Miller, Billy Porter, Sarah Polley, Chinonye Chukwu, Cory Finley, Zach Braff, George Clooney, Michael B. Jordan, Emma Seligman, Luca Guadagnino, Zoe Kravitz, Rachel Morrison and many others, with the goal of creating a lineup of movies that would appeal to every kind of audience. Included among our slate are several films from Orion Pictures, which we relaunched under the leadership of Alana Mayo in August of 2020 amid the long overdue examination of America’s relationship with race, with the goal of making films exclusively focused on – and brought to us by – underrepresented voices.
It’s been our honor and privilege to preside over a revitalized studio that navigated, along with our partners at Eon, the right release date for Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond and seeing the film become one of the highest grossing films of 2021; while also seeing the studio earn eight Academy Award and seventeen BAFTA-nominations, with Licorice Pizza earning the studio’s first Best Picture Academy Award-nomination in over thirty years.
You, as well as our colleagues at UAR and Universal and all our filmmakers, have made all this possible and we are so grateful to have been part of such an incredible team. We are also grateful to Kevin Ulrich and everyone at Anchorage Capital, along with Chris Brearton, for bringing us in and wish everyone at Prime Video and Amazon Studios and MGM nothing but the best success going forward.
Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy
Good morning team,
As you likely just read, Mike and Pam have decided to leave MGM to pursue the next chapter of their careers. I know you’ll join me in thanking them for their leadership, working with each of you to bring compelling storytelling to audiences worldwide. We wish them both continued success.
As I said at our town hall in March, nurturing MGM’s legacy of quality storytelling is a top priority. MGM has indeed become a home for great storytellers. And this home is only going to expand, as we invest and work together to release an even larger theatrical slate in the years ahead. Doing this requires an amazing team, and the more we get to know you all, the more impressed we are.
Mike and Pam will depart this summer, which will allow us to continue the phased and measured approach to integration with Prime Video and Amazon Studios. Meanwhile, the current interim structure remains in place.
Thanks for all your commitment and dedication, as together we continue to produce extraordinary film and television for a diverse, global audience.