Head of Artisan Pictures Departs With Little to Show for Big-Budget Initiative
By CONOR DOUGHERTY
Robert Cooper’s brief tenure as chief executive of Artisan Pictures was like a bad date. Both parties got something out of it but neither was especially satisfied.
Cooper, who was head of production at DreamWorks, where he oversaw production of 1999’s Academy Award winner “American Beauty,” joined Artisan Entertainment in 2001 as part of the acquisition of production company Landscape Entertainment. The move had been billed as jumpstarting the mini-studio’s big-budget slate.
But Landscape’s fortunes were mixed even before the pairing with Artisan, a separation considered by many as inevitable.
On Jan. 10, the company announced his departure.
Cooper, who founded Citadel Entertainment, which was later sold to HBO, had been president of TriStar Pictures, overseeing two 1997 films: “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “As Good as it Gets.”
In March 2000, he established a partnership with Canadian broadcaster CTV Inc., a unit of Canadian media giant Bell Globemedia Inc., to form Landscape. As part of the deal, CTV put up $5 million and committed to spend an additional $29 million over three years. A year and a half later Landscape had little to show for the investment and CTV got cold feet, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Looking to recoup at least a portion of its investment, CTV pushed Landscape to merge with Artisan, agreeing to shift its remaining $20 million commitment from Landscape to Artisan in exchange for Artisan stock.
The company used the $20 million to pay off debt and acquired several films in various stages of development, none of which have yet been produced. The deal also brought Artisan two completed television projects: “Sins of the Father” which aired on Fox’s F/X cable network and “Return to Gilligan’s Island,” which aired on CBS.
After the merger, Cooper took over as chief executive of Artisan Pictures, which is focused on films with budgets under $20 million, in addition to heading Landscape, which was involved in larger movies to be distributed by a third party studios.
Amir Malin, Artisan’s chief executive declined comment. Through a spokesman, Cooper declined comment.
In leaving Artisan, Cooper bought back the Landscape brand, the television production division that came to Artisan in the Landscape deal, and a slate of 16 feature films, some of which are in production. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Artisan will maintain a financial stake in all the projects Cooper is acquiring and Cooper, who continues to maintain an office at the company’s Santa Monica headquarters, will remain an Artisan shareholder.
Former New Line Cinema executive Richard Saperstein, who Cooper hired in March, will replace him atop Artisan Pictures.