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John Calley Given the Reins of Revived UA : Studios: Appointment of former Warner Bros. executive is latest in a series of management shake-ups at MGM as Mancuso forms his own team.

August 24, 1993|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

John Calley, a senior Warner Bros. executive in the 1970s who later linked up with director Mike Nichols to produce films, was named Monday to head United Artists Pictures.

Calley, 62, begins work Sept. 13. United Artists is being revived as part of an effort to make its parent company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, more attractive to prospective buyers.

Santa Monica-based MGM is owned by French bank Credit Lyonnais, which took possession of the ailing operation after former owner Giancarlo Parretti defaulted on loans to the bank. Banking laws require Credit Lyonnais by 1997 to divest the studio, which has been plagued by a string of box office flops.

Calley's appointment is one of several major executive shake-ups expected over the next few weeks as new MGM Chairman Frank Mancuso sweeps out the old regime and moves in his own executives.

Last week, Kenneth Meyer, who supervised business and legal affairs at the studio, resigned. Other MGM executives--including President Charles Meeker--are expected to depart sometime after Labor Day once severance agreements are worked out.

Mancuso, who will oversee both the MGM and United Artists studios once UA is revived, is also expected to name an executive to run the MGM arm.

Although rumored for some time, Calley's appointment is nonetheless surprising to some Hollywood insiders, who had expected more youthful executives to get the top studio positions. The appointment raised questions among some producers and executives about whether Calley and Mancuso, both in their 60s, can successfully tap the all-important youth market.

But Mancuso, in an interview, expressed confidence that Calley and the executives he hires can come up with films that are appealing to young people.

"I don't think age has anything to do with it. I think it's frame of mind. He's an extraordinarily energetic guy," Mancuso said.

Mancuso said he has known Calley only casually over the years. He said he selected him because he wanted a well-connected executive who could head what is effectively a start-up operation. Reviving UA--known for the "Rocky" and James Bond movies--is a key part of the plan to make MGM more attractive.

Calley was traveling and unavailable for comment.

He earned a reputation as one of a handful of maverick studio executives in the 1970s while working at Warner Bros., where he was an executive in charge of worldwide production. During his tenure at the studio, it made such hits as "Dirty Harry," "The Exorcist" and "Deliverance."

Calley is close friends with director Mike Nichols, with whom he produced "Postcards From the Edge," starring Meryl Streep.

Coincidentally, Nichols last week made news when he jumped to Creative Artists Agency after being represented for years by its main rival, International Creative Management. CAA is advising Credit Lyonnais on how to revive MGM. But Mancuso said there is no link between the move by Nichols and Calley's move to UA.

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