Baltimore Sun: They Know Drama

Tom Rothman is working the room at Baltimore’s Charles Theatre, serving up the inside scoop on the film biz and life as the head of Fox film studio. Garrulous and quick-witted by nature, the Mount Washington native is clearly in his element, expansive before a crowd that’s engaged and encouraging.

“The art of `exhibition’ is gone with the wind,” proclaims Rothman, rocking back in his chair and lamenting a Hollywood business model that stresses blockbuster opening weekends over the careful nurturing of worthwhile films. Noting the reliance on multiscreen megaplexes and the huge profits they generate, the executive sheds a quiet tear for the single-screen movie theaters of his youth. “It is a dying aspect of the business.”

“What did he say?” asks an elderly gentleman.

The bespectacled studio head, whom Premiere magazine deems one of the two most powerful men in Hollywood, smiles indulgently and turns to the silver-haired man on his left.

“I’ll repeat it for you, Dad,” Rothman says. Amid laughter from the audience, he comments to no one in particular, “That father-son relationship never changes.”

Maybe not, and for Baltimore’s Rothman clan, that’s a good thing. Inspired by Donald, a trial attorney who helped found Center Stage and spent a decade as board president of the Baltimore School for the Arts, the Rothman sons — Tom and his older brother, John — have done him one better, devoting their lives to show business.

John, 58, graduated from the Yale Drama School in the same class as Meryl Streep.

Besides steady stage work, highlighted by the one-man show The Impossible H.L. Mencken, his credits include 80-plus film and TV appearances, from Stardust Memories in 1980 to last month’s Enchanted. Though his name might not be familiar to most audiences, his face — with hooded eyes and high forehead — invariably rings a bell.

Tom, 53, has been a production head at Fox since 1994, and since February 2006 has been co-chair and co-CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, the parent company of 20th Century Fox. Films made under his watch have ranged from Titanic to Sideways to X-Men to this month’s Alvin and the Chipmunks. Total worldwide box-office for films made during his tenure: $23 billion.