Paramount Pictures hired former Sony Pictures executive Andrew Gumpert to replace its longtime chief operating officer, marking the latest shakeup at the struggling film studio.
Gumpert, who departed Sony earlier this month, will take over for Frederick Huntsberry, who has worked at the studio for 10 years, the company said Monday. Gumpert will assume the new role in January and will report directly to Paramount’s Chairman and Chief Executive Brad Grey.
Huntsberry’s ouster comes about two months after Paramount fired Vice Chairman Rob Moore following a string of misfires including the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” sequel and “Ben-Hur.” Moore’s departure also came after parent company Viacom scuttled plans to sell 49% of the studio.
Paramount has lagged behind its major studio rivals at the box office for several years, and ranks last among the six biggest film distributors in terms of domestic ticket sales for 2016 so far.
As COO, Gumpert will be a key dealmaker for Paramount and oversee operations including strategic planning and human relations for the studio as it attempts to mount a comeback.
Paramount did not specify the reasons for Huntsberry’s exit. He could not be reached for comment.
In a statement, Grey praised the “hard work, integrity, steady hand and business acumen” Gumpert is expected to bring to the company. “He is one of the most respected executives in our industry,” Grey said.
Grey earlier this month hosted journalists on the Melrose Avenue studio lot for a presentation of multiple highly anticipated movies on its slate, including “Fences” starring Denzel Washington, Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” and DreamWorks Pictures’ “Ghost in the Shell.”
The studio enjoyed a much needed commercial and critical success recently with the well-received science fiction drama “Arrival” ($62 million in domestic ticket sales since opening Nov. 11).
Gumpert had previously served as president of business affairs for Sony Pictures’ film unit, where he oversaw negotiations for multiple deals, including the recent film financing and marketing partnership with China media and real estate giant Dalian Wanda Group.
But Gumpert had ambitions for a bigger job at another company, according to a person close to Sony not authorized to comment. Though well-liked at Sony, he is said to have clashed with Sony’s Motion Picture Group Chairman Tom Rothman, who is known for a more hard-charging management style than his predecessor Amy Pascal. Rothman was elevated to the studio chief position in 2015.
Sony has also run into challenges at the multiplex lately, most recently with the $40-million Ang Lee film “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” — a movie that used advanced technology but has nonetheless grossed a disastrous $1.6 million in the U.S. and Canada.
The Culver City studio shook up its own executive ranks earlier this year, pushing out TV head Steve Mosko and hiring Sanford Panitch to lead its Columbia Pictures division.
Huntsberry, an entertainment business veteran, was named Paramount’s COO in 2006.
He started his entertainment career at Universal Studios in 1997 and later joined NBCUniversal in finance and business development positions, eventually becoming president of NBC Universal International. Before Universal, he worked for General Electric for 12 years.
Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder