Goal For New Sony Pictures Structure With Michael De Luca: Better-Quality Slates

Mike Fleming

ANALYSIS: The appointment of Michael De Luca to share production president duties with Hannah Minghella at Sony Michael De LucaPictures 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.

Related: Sony  Taps Michael De Luca As Columbia Production President

columbiaMany 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.

Related: Q&A With ‘Social Network’s Mike De Luca

hannahbelg__131206215847Plenty 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. Read More »

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Sony Pictures To Shift Emphasis From Movies To TV, Will Cut Film Output For 2014

By | Thursday November 21, 2013 @ 8:41am PST

Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton just laid out the new plan to investors as he discussed ambitious financial goals for the company’s entertainment units. That will include “a significant shift in emphasis from motion pictures to higher margin television” production and distribution. The company says that Sony Pictures should generate $8.4B in revenue in the 2015 fiscal year, with at least a 7.5% operating profit margin. In addition, Lynton says that revenues through 2017 should grow at low- to mid-single-digit annual rates, with operating income rising by high-single- to low-double-digit rates. He added that the music segment should report $4.8B in revenues in 2015, growing flat to slightly up through 2017, and a 9.5% operating margin growing by mid- to high-single-digit rates. The film greenlighting process is “more onerous from end to end,” Lynton says. “The times demand that we set a higher bar and we have done just that.” When it comes to dealing with talent, the studio warns that it will now be “saying ‘no’ when in the past we might have said ‘yes’.” Directors will be told that they are “on the financial hook for financial overruns.” When it comes to profitability “we are not satisfied.” In addition to the cost controls, the studio is looking for digital and international opportunities including “content with universal appeal.” It will foster an “innovative entrepreneurial culture” and encourage “creative excellence.” But financial discipline will be “front and center.” He noted that Sony is working with a “third party” — reportedly Bain & Co. — to help find cuts. Lynton also talked up the company’s “One Sony” strategy which includes producing documentaries about Sony Music artists including Michael Jackson, and hiring singer Adele to sing the theme to the James Bond film Skyfall. ”This is our time,” Lynton says. “We intend to seize it…and deliver to shareholders more of the profits that you deserve.”

Related: How Sony Pictures Answered Critics Going Into Thursday Investor Meeting Read More »

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Outgoing Fox Exec Tony Sella Zinged At Charity Auction

20th Century Fox Film chief creative officer Tony Sella isn’t formally out the door yet, as Deadline exclusively revealed yesterday, but his departure is already a sales tool in some Hollywood circles. “You fired Tony Sella, … Read More »

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Daniel Loeb In Retreat: Backs Off Sony For Now With Praise For CEO Kazuo Hirai And George Clooney; But Can He Be Trusted?

Nikki Finke who is on vacation will have a fuller Loeb vs Sony report soon.

Apparently, The Most Hated Man In Hollywood just wasn’t comfortable being labeled “The Most Dangerous Man To Our Industry” by George Clooney for all the world to read (via Mike Fleming’s exclusive Deadline interview and carried by Yahoo this past weekend). So now Third Point hedge fund CEO Daniel Loeb claims today he’s backing off Sony. But only after the putz created chaos and confusion inside a stable and successful studio, destabilized Michael Lynton’s and Amy Pascal’s and Jeff Blake’s management because two summer films After Earth and White House Down bombed at the domestic box office in what is a cyclical business, and imperiled many current jobs and future projects there. It’s disgusting. Not only does he seek to profit from the misfortunes of countries (Greece) and corporations (Sony after Howard Stringer crashed and burned the once great electronics giant), but in this case bullies a major entertainment company to the brink. Now Loeb will simply retreat to his East Coast dream homes and not give Hollywood another thought until the next time he feels the urge to kvetch. Kudos to Clooney for having the balls to hold up Loeb to public scorn. And congrats to Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai for not panicking or pressuring top executives to leave just to appease Loeb. Nice work, too, by producer Lynda Obst who gave a very forceful and cogent defense of SPE on CNBC yesterday. As for Ashton Kutcher and his worthless opinion, let’s see how his career careens when his Jobs indie flops and CBS/Warner Bros no longer pays him to make Two And A Half Men even more unwatchable.

Related: Sony Rejects Daniel Loeb’s Entertainment Spinoff Proposal

Loeb today did an about-face and claimed to Variety he was backing off Lynton, Pascal, et al: “We support Hirai, and to the extent that he supports his management team and they can meet the board’s initiatives around transparency and profit margin improvement, I see no reason [the current executives] cannot do that. It is a decision for Mr. Hirai to make.” This is after Hirai sent a letter to Third Point (which owns 7% of Sony) and rejected Loeb’s unsolicited proposal to spinoff Sony’s entertainment unit. Suddenly Loeb was calling Hirai’s letter “thoughtfully written and detailed in its discussion of profitability and transparency. There was a lot there for shareholders to hang their hats on.” Loeb also admitted “it is probably unfair to focus on one or two bad movies, just in the way that Third Point from time to time can have one or two bad months or a bad year. … We’re really not focused on individual movies or their slate. I know I mentioned that in the last letter, but at this point it is more productive to support management and the goals advanced by Mr. Hirai in his letter.”

Loeb clearly never counted on being outed by Clooney for “knowing nothing about our business” and dissed so publicly and forcefully and publicly by the filmmaker. Loeb replied: “Notwithstanding the fact that the media likes to create a stir, I admire Mr. Clooney’s passion for Sony and his loyalty to Sony and his friends there.” But Loeb nervily suggested he and Clooney share a “common goal: a more disciplined company with better allocation of capital means less money spent on bureaucracy and more investment in motion pictures. We are all for intelligent investment in creative content. I believe our interests are aligned in a way he probably doesn’t realize.” Read More »

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Analysis: Amy Pascal Leads “Historic” Day For Women And The Motion Picture Academy

Pete Hammond

Today’s announcement revealing the results of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences‘ annual Board Of Governors election was a historic one, at least as far as women and their power position in the organization is concerned. That is something that makes outgoing President Hawk Koch very happy. He particularly praised the increased numbers of female members when we spoke earlier today. “We have the first female Executive branch Governor since Mary Pickford (a founding member in 1927) in (Sony Co-Chairman) Amy Pascal.  Amy is only the second female executive (branch governor)  in our history  and I want to tell you that we are all excited about that. That’s big. We never had more than 9 women before , now we have 14. 30% of our Board is now women. It really reflects our industry, and I think members have been hearing the mantra that Dawn (CEO Hudson) and I have been talking about. Equal representation. We should be reflecting the industry,” he said adding he thinks the makeup of the new Board is anything but status quo and should continue all the forward movement. Certainly with 14 women on the Board it will be harder for critics to continue calling the Academy “an old white man’s club”. Pascal replaces Fox Chairman Jim Gianopulos, who was termed out after nine years on the Board. One major studio head stepping in for another. Koch said he and Hudson had been talking to Pascal for a long while and she was “very excited to run” but he noted that the Academy leadership does not “recruit”  industry heavyweights. It is up to them to jump into the election. Read More »

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Amy Pascal Asks Hollywood To Eliminate Gay Slurs And Stereotypes From Movies

By | Friday March 22, 2013 @ 12:20pm PDT

Sony Amy PascalIt’s rare for moguls to push moral responsibility to Hollywood, let alone action. Last night at a sold-out LA Gay & Lesbian Center gala that raised $1 million for homeless gay and lesbian youth, honoree Amy Pascal asked the industry to scrutinize its depiction of LGBT characters in film and television: “How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot – homo – dyke – take a pencil and just cross it out”. Below are excerpts from the Sony Pictures boss’ prepared speech.

No matter who we are, no matter what we are, no matter where we come from, we learn about ourselves and each other in two ways. The first way is what we hear – in our families, from our friends, and from our schoolmates. The second way is what we see – on television and in the movie theater. Now, there is not much any of us can do about what people hear from families and friends, but there is a whole hell of a lot we can do about what people see.

The images that impacted me as a teenager had lasting influences on my entire life and I bet that is true for most of us. What we see in the media today affects everybody, whether it’s film, TV, radio, magazines or the internet. What the media says about your sexual orientation, and the color of your skin, and the shape of your eyes, and your ethnicity… what you look like, what you weigh, what you wear, how poor you are, how awkward you are, how educated you are, and how different you are… this stuff really sinks in. What we see teaches us about how to feel about ourselves and how to feel about each other.

And now, I’m talking about kids who are gay and I’m talking about kids who aren’t gay. One group needs affirmation and the other group needs education. And, if I’m being honest, neither of those issues are high on any movie studio or TV network’s agenda…

The Celluloid Closet was made almost 20 years ago and certainly attitudes have changed, but maybe not quite so much as you or I would want or hope. Television has been much more progressive and credit has to be given to producers like Max Mutchnick and David Kohan and Ryan Murphy for really changing things.

Now movies need to catch up. There are magnificent movies being made about gay subjects with gay characters, like Brokeback Mountain and Milk. Anyone would have been proud to have made those movies. I know I would be. But when you think about some of these films, even our favorite ones, there is a theme that runs through them.

Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Boys Don’t Cry, Philadelphia, The Hours, Gods and Monsters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Single Man, My Own Private Idaho, Cloud Atlas – in all these movies, the main character is murdered or martyred or commits suicide or just dies unhappily. And there are far more pernicious and dangerous images that confront gay kids and their parents: the lesbian murderer, the psychotic transvestite, the queen who is humiliated and sometimes tossed off a ship or a ledge. It’s a big joke. It still happens.

Read More »

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AFI Awards: Hollywood Power Players Turn Out For A Moment Of Sanity During Oscar Season Madness

Pete Hammond

Between the roller-coaster ride of Thursday’s 85th Academy Award Nominations and Critics Choice Awards and this weekend’s Golden Globes mania, Friday’s annual AFI Awards Luncheon was not only a breath of fresh air in this busy season. … Read More »

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Did Oscar Voter Who Spoke Out Against ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Run Afoul Of Academy Rules?

By | Friday January 11, 2013 @ 5:35pm PST
Pete Hammond

In case you are wondering if Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences member David Clennon ran afoul of official Academy rules regarding member behavior when he spoke out against Zero Dark Thirty at a media event today, he … Read More »

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Sony Going Ahead With ‘Dragon Tattoo’ Sequels Despite Underperforming Box Office

UPDATE: Sony Pictures is not known for risky moves. So all through the holidays rival studio execs were predicting that Amy Pascal et al would not go forward with the 2nd and 3rd film installments of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium trilogy The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest. That opinion was based on the mediocre opening for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Sure its domestic debut was significantly behind M:I4 and Sherlock 2, but it’s R-rated and both of those are PG-13. Then overseas grosses, expected to be huge, began trickling in underwhelming. GWDT opened only 3rd in the UK, and disappointing in Asia, and “not as good as hoped for” in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Now I’ve learned that Sony Pictures is indeed going forward with The Girl Who Played With Fire already written by Steve Zaillian, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest which Zaillian is penning. Studio chief Pascal and producer Scott Rudin have not yet locked in David Fincher as director. But they’re looking to start shooting #2 by the end of this year/beginning of next. Overseas, Sony now expects GWDT to do over $200M — so $300M all in globally. “And that’s a really good number,” the Sony exec told me hopefully. But one mogul counters, “The surprising part is that Sony is not waiting to see if the movie works overseas before going forward with the sequels. I would have.” Read More »

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So What If David Denby Broke Sony/Scott Rudin’s ‘Dragon Tattoo’ Embargo? Fuck It!

Embargoes are dumbass, and even more so when they involve matters of no consequence like showbiz. And still more so when the movie review at issue was positive like David Denby’s critique of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in … Read More »

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Andrea Wong Tapped As President Of Int’l Production At Sony Pictures TV & President International At Sony Pictures Entertainment

Nellie Andreeva

EAfter a year and a half away from the spotlight, Andrea Wong is rejoining the executive ranks with top international positions at Sony Pictures Entertainment. The former CEO of Lifetime, who had been rumored for virtually every high-profile TV executive job that became available in the past 18 months, has been named President of International Production for Sony Pictures Television and President of International for SPE. She will be based in London.

In her SPT position, Wong will head the studio’s international TV production business, reporting to SPT president Steve Mosko. She will oversee SPT’s 15 owned and joint venture international production companies. Wong will shepherd the development of new formats as well as the local adaptations of SPT-owned formats, primarily on the unscripted side. The studio’s library of reality formats, which was boosted by the 2008 acquisition of Dutch company 2waytraffic, includes Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Dragon’s Den and Pyramid. Additionally, SPT has been setting up local versions of its daytime talk show Dr. Oz and some of its library sitcoms, including The Nanny, Married … With Children and Everybody Loves Raymond. It was Wong’s successful tenure as head of alternative and late-night at ABC, where she developed such hit franchises as The Bachelor, Dancing With the Stars and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, that was key in landing her the SPT job, which is skewed heavily towards reality. “Andrea’s business acumen and her role in developing successful unscripted programming like Dancing With the Stars and The Bachelor make her a perfect fit for SPT,” Mosko said.

Wong replaces Kees Abrahams, who is stepping down as president of international production for SPT. Abrahams, former CEO of 2waytraffic, had been overseeing SPT’s international production operations since 2waytraffic’s acquisition. “Kees’ entrepreneurial spirit has been instrumental to the growth of our television production business internationally and we thank him for all of his efforts,”  Mosko said. Added Kees, “I think it is now time for me to pursue some new commercial opportunities, and I wish Sony well.” Read More »

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Ron Howard Won’t Complete Dan Brown Trilogy; Sony Now Looking For New Director

EXCLUSIVE: Ron Howard directed and produced both of Sony Pictures’ films based on Dan Brown’s bestselling novels, The Da Vinci Code (in 2006) and Angels & Demons (2009). Now I’ve learned that the Imagine Entertainment principal will not be … Read More »

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Will Sony Buy Roland Emmerich Sci-Fi Pic ‘Singularity?’

By | Wednesday June 29, 2011 @ 9:52am PDT
Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Insiders tell me Sony Pictures won’t let this one get away. Expect Amy Pascal to announce shortly that she has filled a tent-pole slot in her release schedule. Emmerich deals generally mean a big upfront payment, big … Read More »

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Amy Pascal On Laura Ziskin’s Passing

By | Monday June 13, 2011 @ 10:50am PDT

Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal has released a statement on the passing of veteran producer Laura Ziskin. The two women worked together on many pictures that included the Spider-Man franchise, but their relationship was both personal and professional:

“Laura

Read More »

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Sony’s Michael Lynton And Amy Pascal Acknowledge Hacker Breach

By | Friday June 3, 2011 @ 7:14pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman/CEO Michael Lynton and co-chairman Amy Pascal have released this statement, acknowledging the studio was hit by hackers who’ve breached their system and come away with user passwords and other data:

“The cybercrime wave that has affected Sony companies and a number of government agencies, businesses and … Read More »

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‘Easy A’ Helmer Will Gluck Makes Two-Year Sony Pictures Deal For Films And Series

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After directing Easy A and the upcoming Justin Timberlake-Mila Kunis bedroom comedy Friends With Benefits for Screen Gems, Will Gluck has made a two-year development and production deal with Sony Pictures that covers TV and film and involves Screen … Read More »

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Sony Pictures Bearing Down On Kathryn Bigelow’s Bin Laden Movie

By | Tuesday May 24, 2011 @ 4:41pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Sony Pictures is negotiating to acquire U.S. distribution rights to the untitled Kathryn Bigelow-directed drama about Navy SEAL Team 6′s hunt for Osama bin Laden. Mark Boal, Bigelow’s partner on the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, is finalizing a script that changes the film from a drama about an unsuccessful attempt to hunt the Al Qaeda leader into a methodical hunt that culminates in his death. The film is being fully financed by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures. Production will start in the early fall and the pic will be ready for release in 2012.

Deadline pegged the Bigelow-Boal film — formerly titled Killing Bin Laden – as a potentially hot project the night that President Barack Obama interrupted programming to announce that the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center had finally been located and killed. It most certainly has worked out that way. The project was far along at this point, and they were talking to actors like Joel Edgerton even before bin Laden was killed. Sony’s Amy Pascal has been aggressive about the film since that night, and the studio and others heard the pitch from Boal right before buyers headed off to the Cannes Film Festival. Read More »

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CANNES: FilmDistrict Acquires U.S. Rights To Joe Gordon-Levitt/Bruce Willis Sci-Fi Action Film ‘Looper’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: A frenzied Saturday auction on the Croisette has ended with FilmDistrict in final negotiations for U.S. distribution rights to Looper, the Rian Johnson-directed science fiction film that stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis. There were at least six bidders spanning major studios and independents, and it sounds like some serious upfront money was paid. But the intriguing part is that the deal orchestrated between CAA and FilmDistrict’s Peter Schlessel will likely end in FilmDistrict using an option with Sony Pictures, which would release and market the film through the TriStar label. That replicates the distribution structure of District 9, which Schlessel acquired while he was at Sony. The picture has a similarly brainy construct and is also reminiscent of the first Terminator.

Johnson wrote the script, about a contract killer who works for the mob of the future, and who kills victims  that are sent back in time 30 years, so there is no trace of the crime in the future. It’s a great gig, until the killer (Gordon-Levitt) recognizes that one of his targets (Willis) is a futuristic version of himself. Piper Perabo, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels also star. The film was financed by Endgame’s James Stern, who produced with Johnson’s partner Ram Bergman.

CAA still has to paper the deal, but that likely gives Sony and Amy Pascal its second release schedule addition in the last 24 hours. As Deadline revealed early Saturday, the studio acquired the David Frankel-directed Great Hope Springs with Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell starring. Read More »

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Cannes: Sony Pictures Closing Deal For Meryl Streep Comedy ‘Great Hope Springs’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The majority of deal buzz at the Cannes Film Festival market is where the Megan Ellison-financed Wettest County in the World will be dealt for distribution, I’m told the next big deal to come together will be a Sony … Read More »

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