There are so many reasons John Lesher and Brad Weston are out at Paramount Pictures.

But the straw that probably broke the camel’s back: the Eddie Murphy movie “Imagine That” bombing like there’s no tomorrow.

As of Saturday morning, it’s not even at $10 million after eight days of release. With a $55 million price tag (which means more like $70-$75 million after promotion and partying), this is a disaster.

And it doesn’t make sense. Murphy has a built-in audience when it comes to kid movies like “Dr. Doolittle.” No matter how awful this one was, it should have at least opened big before fizzing out. But “Imagine” was stillborn. On its opening Saturday, it took in only $2.2 million on over 3,000 screens.

And more should be coming out about this Paramount bloodbath shortly. It can’t be a coincidence that just a few days ago came an announcement of Tom Cruise returning to Paramount, at least as a producer, for “Mission Impossible 4.” Lesher was against a Cruise return, and had advocated a “MI” return to roots’a team of spies a la the TV show, and no more Cruise.

But there’s been a chain of developments’J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” is the hottest hit of the summer. He undoubtedly wanted to do “MI4.” He and Cruise have remained friendly since “MI3.” And so on. When “MI4″ finally takes shape, you can bet that Cruise will be on screen as Ethan Hunt, whether as a solo star or team leader. If Lesher maintained the position that that dog wouldn’t Hunt, it couldn’t have helped his cause.

Oh, for a decade ago when Sherry Lansing ran Paramount. Lansing managed to get a piece of James Cameron’s “Titanic,” which Fox released. She made a fortune for the company. It can’t be lost by anyone at Paramount that Cameron’s “Avatar” is coming, and could be “Titanic” again. Only this time, Paramount has no part of it.

More to come, no doubt…

Author
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. He wrote the Intelligencer column for NY Magazine in the mid 90s, reporting on the OJ Simpson trial, as well as for the real Parade magazine (when it was owned by Conde Nast), and has written for the New York Observer, Details, Vogue, Spin, the New York Times, NY Post, Washington Post, and NY Daily News among many publications. He is the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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