ANALYSIS: The appointment of Michael De Luca to share production president duties with Hannah Minghella at Sony Pictures has taken the town by surprise. Insiders on the lot see an improved structure that could position the studio to up the level of quality as it follow through on its mandate to take big swings for global hits. The way the new structure will work is, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group chairman Amy Pascal and Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad will focus on the studio as a whole, including administrative endeavors, and Minghella and De Luca will concentrate on building the film slates.
Many in town have expressed surprise that De Luca would make such a move at this moment, and not just because he’s most identified with smart and edgy filmmaker-driven films and not the tentpoles that increasingly account for studio slates. They are surprised that, after transitioning from a fabled run as wunderkind production chief at New Line (and a stint at DreamWorks) to become producer, De Luca has built enviable momentum: hits include Sony’s Oscar hopeful Captain Phillips, The Social Network and Moneyball, and De Luca is in the middle of Universal/Focus’s adaptation of the EL James publishing sensation Fifty Shades Of Grey. There are dozens of other promising projects percolating. “There is no way a guy with that hot a hand is going to take that job and probably a pay cut to report to Belgrad unless there is some eventual succession plan,” barked one rival exec.
Plenty of turbulence has occurred at Sony these past few months leading up to the recent investor meeting, but insiders tell me this structure is not viewed as a short-term solution, and they say no other shoes will be dropping. They say this move will strengthen the studio in several ways. Most important is De Luca’s value as an executive; I have gotten to know him very well, as we spent over a year working on a book about his professional and personal coming-of-age years at New Line. We shelved the project at Mike’s request, so I’m not uncomfortable writing about him here. But what I observed that the above exec is unaware of is just how much De Luca loved being an executive.