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Columbia Pictures Wraps Up Deal to Make Canton Chairman

October 04, 1991|ALAN CITRON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hollywood's most laborious management shake-up finally ended Thursday as former Warner Bros. executive Mark Canton was named to replace Frank Price as Columbia Pictures chairman.

Canton, who was rumored to be replacing Price for several months, received a standard five-year contract. Sources said the multimillion-dollar deal also includes a share in the appreciation of the value of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Columbia's parent company.

Canton, 42, begins work next week. The executive, who was responsible for "Batman" at Warner, said his first job is assessing Columbia's talent and management. "I don't intend to walk, but I also don't want to run," he said. "I just need to get this train rolling."

Canton said he is already close to many actors, directors and producers working at Columbia, including Barbra Streisand and James Brooks. He said he also expects to draw on longtime relationships with people such as Chevy Chase, Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg.

Outgoing Chairman Price received a $15-million to $20-million contract settlement, sources said. He plans to reopen his production company, Price Entertainment, under a non-exclusive deal with Sony. Price said he will take 35 to 40 projects he developed with him, including such highly regarded scripts as "Machine Gun Kelly," "Professor Romeo" and "Sex in the Nineties."

Price is a Hollywood veteran who has served two previous stints as a studio chief. His 18-month tenure at Columbia was marked by successes such as "Boyz N the Hood" and one highly publicized failure, "Return to the Blue Lagoon." Sources said his methodical, secretive style never meshed with the high-octane management methods of younger Sony executives.

Price, 61, who attributed his personal style to his background as a writer, also was not close to Sony Pictures Chairman Peter Guber and his former co-chairman, Jon Peters, now an independent producer on the Columbia lot. Canton, by comparison, has a longstanding personal and professional relationship with both.

"Clearly, Peter and John, when they came into Columbia, would have liked to have had Mark Canton," Price said. "When Mark became available, Peter felt he should move on that. He's entitled to have anybody in the job that he wants as long as I'm treated fairly."

Guber, who was criticized for not moving quickly and decisively enough on the Price-Canton changeover, said he handled it as well as possible, given the raft of uncontrollable rumors that preceded the switch and the complications of working out the Price and Canton deals.

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