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Universal Boss Out After Movie Flop

December 1, 1998 GMT

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. (AP) _ Universal Pictures chairman Casey Silver was forced to resign after a year of movie flops, culminating with the holiday weekend’s disastrous $8.2 million opening of the expensive sequel ``Babe: Pig in the City.″

Other box office flops that have landed Universal second to last among major studios were ``Primary Colors,″ ``Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,″ ``Out of Sight,″ and the Nov. 13 release of ``Meet Joe Black,″ starring Brad Pitt as the Grim Reaper. It cost more than $85 million to make and has only grossed $35.8 million after three weeks.


Silver was informed Sunday night by his boss, Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer, that the company wanted to make its second high-level management change this month. Two weeks ago, Universal Studios chairman and chief executive Frank Biondi Jr. got the boot.

``It’s their prerogative and I respect their decision,″ Silver told The Associated Press. ``I want to help the company in whatever way I can for an orderly and smooth transition.″

Silver had been head of Universal’s movie production, marketing and distribution since November 1995. His duties will now be taken over by Meyer, a former agent who has emerged as the winner in the Universal shakeup by parent Seagram Co.

Meyer will report directly to Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., who is taking a more active role in the liquor company’s entertainment businesses, which include music and television.

Silver will continue to work with Universal as an independent producer. Terms of the new arrangement haven’t been reached.

Silver’s job security had been in question for months, as Universal released one dud after another. Even the well-reviewed film ``Out of Sight″ with George Clooney failed to generate box office heat, grossing just $37.5 million.

This has left Universal ahead of only financially struggling MGM in market share among the major studios.

This weekend, the situation became even worse when ``Babe: Pig in the City,″ the $90 million followup to the successful 1995 ``Babe,″ debuted in fifth place. The movie was buried by two other family-oriented features, Disney’s ``A Bug’s Life″ and Paramount’s ``The Rugrats Movie.″

``Pig in the City″ was plagued by last-minute editing problems and couldn’t be completed on time, forcing Universal to cancel a star-studded benefit premiere and a weekend media event, denying the film much-needed publicity. The movie received generally positive reviews, though some critics found the G-rated picture too dark for youngsters.

The outlook for the rest of the year is mixed. This Friday, the studio releases the controversial shot-by-shot color remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic ``Psycho,″ which Universal is not previewing for critics and the media _ often a sign of trouble. Universal’s Christmas release ``Patch Adams″ with Robin Williams has received strong buzz, but opens on a crowded movie weekend full of Oscar contenders.