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Joe Roth Biography

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Birth Name: Joe Roth
Born: 06/13/1948
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA

In 1989, Roth moved into the majors when he was named chairman of the Fox Film Corporation, the newly-formed theatrical film unit of the 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation. He was the first director since 1935 (when Ernst Lubitsch briefly took over the reins of Paramount) to become the head of production for a major studio. While at Fox, he oversaw such popular features as "Home Alone" and "Edward Scissorhands" (both 1990), "Hot Shots!" and "Sleeping With the Enemy" (both 1991), and "White Men Can't Jump" and "The Last of the Mohicans" (both 1992). In the winter of 1992, Roth announced his resignation from Fox and went on to form (with Roger Birnbaum) Caravan Pictures, an independent production company housed at Disney.

After several successful years with Caravan (with pictures including "The Three Musketeers" 1993, "While You Were Sleeping" 1995, and "Before and After" 1996), Roth was named chairman of Walt Disney Motion Pictures, replacing Jeffrey Katzenberg, who ironically, had been responsible for the Caravan deal. Roth, whose managerial style was referred to as "low- key and contemplative", concentrated on developing Disney's live-action features and attempted to hold costs down, although it also entered into deals with talent as diverse as Ridley Scott, Robert Redford, John Hughes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock and Oprah Winfrey.

Roth initially managed the distinct film divisions, Disney, Touchstone, Hollywood, Caravan and Miramax, but behind the scenes quietly streamlined the Byzantine corporate structure he inherited in order to cut costs. He was also forward enough in his thinking and understanding of the changes in the industry to posit the need for global thinking on the part of studio executives. Still, while there was a need for "brand name" recognition, the really good executive would still have to recognize that "people connect to the emotional values inside stories [and] if a movie connects with audiences here in America, it will connect with foreign audiences."

By 1996, many of his changes had been implemented and Roth was overseeing a revamped Walt Disney Studios, having assumed additional responsibilities for TV production, TV animation and home video. Having made the decision to curtail the number of films released by the studio in a single year to 20, Roth faced several difficult decisions. The production deal with Caravan was altered to allow Caravan to shop to other studios any projects Disney passed on. Additionally, Roth shut down the production and development aspects of Hollywood Pictures but allowed it to continue operating as a releasing label. In restructuring the company, the executive was also faced with having to soothe bruised egos and reshuffle the responsibilities of key players. By the end of the summer (and following the departure of some figures), Roth had consolidated the production process among himself, Richard Cook, Donald De Line and David Vogel.

Roth's efforts clearly paid; Disney led the box office market share five times in six years during his tenure and the studio enjoyed successes with the animated films "Hercules" (1997), "A Bug's Life" (1998) and "Tarzan" (1999), actioners like "Con Air" (1997) and "Armageddon" (1998) and Oscar-nominated dramas such as "The Insider" and "The Sixth Sense" (both 1999).

When Roth announced his resignation from Disney in January 2000, though, it was not much of a surprise within the industry. Having spent more than a decade working in the shadow of powerful men like Rupert Murdoch and Michael Eisner, Roth stated it was time to strike out on his own. (A former insider, however, hinted to the industry trades that part of the reason might have stemmed from Roth's frustration at the limitations enforced by making "brand-name" product.) Whatever the case, Roth wasted no time in lining up talent to join him; Julia Roberts signed a multi-year, nonexclusive three-picture deal agreement with him in February. He then negotiated deals with German-based Senator Films and Toho-Tawa of Japan and announced the acquisition of his company's first project, "Tomcats" (2001), a raunchy romantic comedy with Jerry O'Connell and Shannon Elizabeth. By the time the film went before the cameras, Roth had settled on a name -- Revolution Films -- and had embarked on a series of deals acquiring various projects like an untitled scripts from Lawrence Kasdan and Daryl Quarles, "The New Guy" to team Eddie Griffin and Lyle Lovett, and "The One" to star Jet Li.