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Sony Pictures Vice Chairman Jeff Blake Exiting Studio After 22 Years

By | Tuesday July 22, 2014 @ 8:06am PDT

Sony Pictures Vice Chairman Jeff Blake Exiting Studio After 22 YearsEXCLUSIVE: Jeff Blake, who has served as vice chairman of Sony Pictures and chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony Pictures since 2005, is leaving the studio that he has been a part of for the past 22 years. Part of the innermost circle of Sony’s senior management team with CEO Michael Lynton and chair of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group Amy Pascal, the departure is a real shake-up for the studio at the highest level. Blake is the stalwart pro and has been one of the longest survivors at any studio. He worked under several Sony regimes including that of Peter Guber and Mark Canton, Jonathan Dolgen, Alan Levine, Robert Wynne, Mel Harris, the beloved John Calley, Howard Stringer, and finally Lynton and Pascal. He exits August 1.

Sony announced it at 8 AM this morning, saying, “It’s with a heavy heart and great appreciation that we want to share with you news that Jeff Blake has decided to leave SPE to pursue other opportunities … he’s been an important part of the fabric of SPE. We have all loved his legendary role as raffle master at our annual holiday party, enjoyed his gregarious laugh and sense of humor and appreciate his reputation as one of the nicest and most easy-going guys in the business.”

Image (1) sony-pictures-logo__140323172613.jpeg for post 703140With Blake’s departure, the studio loses an executive with institutional and strategic knowledge of not only marketing and distribution both domestically and internationally, but on the business itself. He has worked at three studios, having joined the business in 1974 working for Paramount Pictures in Chicago. He has also worked with the best known names in the business at Paramount and at Sony (and even a short stint at Disney) – from Charlie Bludhorn and Barry Diller to Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Stanley Jaffe, Frank Mancuso, the wonderful Brandon Tartikoff, the aforementioned executives and so many others. Katzenberg and Mancuso became Blake’s lifetime friends and mentors.

decode-pascal-articleInlineHis departure comes after Pascal and Lynton and the rest of SPE’s senior management have been under tremendous pressure after a rough round last summer and a hit-and-miss year so far in 2014. Pascal and Lynton have spent this past year making changes at the studio and shoring up their ranks with execs like Michael De Luca coming in as president of production at Columbia, and the announcement last week that Doug Belgrad is expanding duties with a new president of the motion picture group title. Those expanded responsibilities included working with the marketing and distribution team which also saw changes last year. Sony has undergone extreme cost-cutting at the studio as well with layoff after layoff. They have also worked to bring in co-financing deals and closed a big one with Lone Star Capital and Citibank, a smaller agreement with Village Roadshow and have also been waiting for former Warner Bros. executive Jeff Robinov to secure financing to start producing movies to distribute.

“Certainly there has been an air of change at Sony for the past couple of years,” said Blake. “I put it out there prior to our summer if at some point, I needed to step aside that I certainly would but, in the meantime, I wanted to make sure that there were no distractions in releasing our summer slate. I’m really comfortable with my decision, Read More »

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Sony Ups Columbia Prexy Doug Belgrad To President, Motion Pictures Group

By | Wednesday July 16, 2014 @ 8:27am PDT
Mike Fleming

Sony Ups Columbia Prexy Doug Belgrad To President, Motion Pictures GroupSony Pictures Entertainment continues to shuffle its motion picture division manpower. The studio announced this morning that Columbia Pictures president and former production president Doug Belgrad got promoted to the post of president of its Motion Picture Group. Belgrad continues to report to Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group.

Image (1) Sony-Pictures-logo__130125035333-200x312-1__140530164135.jpg for post 738072When Michael De Luca was tapped to share the production president role with Hannah Minghella, speculation ran rampant about what might happen to all of these executives. This came after a rough summer 2013, and minority shareholder Daniel Loeb complaining loudly about the flops. There was great performance pressure on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and scrutiny on everything else Sony has been doing. That sequel did not match the original’s $757 million global gross, but it cracked $700 million, which was considered good enough to keep the train moving. There was the hit sequel 22 Jump Street, and the sleeper TriStar hit Heaven Is For Real and Screen Gems’ Think Like A Man Too. Sex Tape is about to open with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel boasting about baring all in the sexy laffer.

In the distance are the Antoine Fuqua-directed Denzel Washington film The Equalizer and the David Ayer-directed Brad Pitt-starrer Fury, with Annie and the untitled Cameron Crowe movie bowing in December in the Oscar mix. Down the line, there will be an event movie based on the venerable Barbie toyline, as well as another James Bond film, Spider-Man spinoffs, as well as reboots of Ghostbusters and Men In Black. As for the executive team, insiders tell me that Belgrad is an effective executive, and that he, De Luca and Minghella are bonding and creating their own niches. Read More »

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UPDATE: ICM Partners Nixes Sultan’s Beverly Hills And Bel-Air Hotels For Power Dining

Mike Fleming

icmp4th UPDATE: Here likely will be the next step in the boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Bel-Air Hotel. ICM Partners has released an internal email telling its staffers that expenses will not be reimbursed if they come from either of the two hotels. ICM Partners joins a growing protest that has left the normally bustling Beverly Hills and Bel-Air Hotels with the ghostlike emptiness of The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel as the entertainment industry protests the harsh laws that are being enacted by hotel owner the Sultan of Brunei in his home country, measures that include death by stoning for gays and adulterers. Deadline will keep a running track of studios and agencies that take similar steps to put pressure on the Sultan. This is an unfortunate development for all of the hard workers at both hotels who rely on tips to feed their families, but this protest shows no signs of abating.

3RD UPDATE, Tuesday, May 6, 7:40 PM: Now there are lawyers involved. The Beverly Hills Bar Association is the latest group to cancel events at the Beverly Hills Hotel amid the growing boycott of the venue. The BHBA said today that it has yanked all of its upcoming events in protest of the harsh laws enacted last week by the hotel’s owner, the Sultan of Brunei, in his home country. The bar association’s move comes three weeks after its biggest annual showbiz-related shindig, the Entertainment Lawyer of the Year Award. Read the BHBA’s statement at the bottom of the original post.

2ND UPDATE, May 5, 3:11 PM: The Feminist Majority Foundation, which is among the groups that have pulled events from the Beverly Hills Hotel, staged a rally across the street from the venue today. Its Global Women’s Rights Awards is co-chaired by Jay and Mavis Leno, and Conan Nolan’s Twitter photo shows the former Tonight Show host speaking during the protest.

LEno Bev Hill sHotel

bevhillPREVIOUS UPDATE: The Night Before event has followed suit and pulled its annual event from the Beverly Hills Hotel, as expected.  Unless the hotel changes ownership or the Sultan changes the law, the event will be at another venue for the first time since its 2003 inception, insiders said. The board made the decision Friday, and they haven’t yet decided where to go. They slipped it to THR because it is a sponsor of the event. MPTF statement is at end of the story.

EARLIER EXCLUSIVE: Five days before its annual luncheon fundraiser this Wednesday, Teen Line has abruptly moved the event honoring Amy Pascal and others from the Beverly Hills Hotel. It is the latest event cancellation since hotel owner, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, announced a death-by-stoning decree for gays and adulterers in his home country. The Teen Line event, held each year at the iconic hotel, will be moving to the Sony lot. As prestige events continue to move to protest barbaric human rights violations, many in town feel that it is no longer a matter of if, but rather when, the Motion Picture & Television Fund‘s Night Before The Oscars event looks for a new venue for what is considered the preeminent pre-Oscar event. Read More »

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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, saved some money there,” quipped producer Mark Gordon last night at a charity auction to Fox production president Emma Watts in front of a crowd of powerplayers. Generating a brief giggle from some of those present, the remark from the PGA co-President came during a one-liner filled big ticket auction he was conducting Saturday at the An Evening Under The Stars gala fundraiser for the LA Gay & Lesbian Center at director Roland Emmerich’s house. Gordon went on to say “Tony’s a great guy” but still thought Watts could pony up some dough and successfully bid for one of the several item like 5 days in Emmerich’s London home or 5 days on his yacht off the coast of Thailand that were on the block to raise money for the Center. She declined. Along With Emmerich, Gordon and Watts, CAA’s Bryan Lourd, Glee/American Horror Story boss Ryan Murphy, Independence Day co-writer Dean Devlin, X-Men director Bryan Singer, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, HBO’s Michael Lombardo, Criminal Minds/Teen Wolf producer Jeff Davis, Scandal actor and writer Dan Bucatinsky and actress … 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. It was a much needed event to put everything in perspective and show not only the impressive group of creative heavyweights from the year’s best movies and TV programs, but also a strong turnout of studio power players, exactly what this should all be about. It’s a celebration of the year’s best work, not another televised awards show that simply tries to divide everything into groups of winners and losers, bad jokes and nervous nominees. “Our wish for today is that this room become a respite from the noise, for us to carry you away as you carry us away. Think of it as when the lights go down in a movie theatre or a story beginning on television. We want you to feel good about your work and feel good about the people you work with because together you have created something beautiful, and in the weeks to come and the years that will pass nothing can take that away from you,” said AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale in his opening remarks that set just the right tone. With tables for each of AFI’s 10 movies of the year (Argo, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, The Dark Knight Rises, Django Unchained, 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 did not. Clennon said “I’m a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The Motion Picture Academy clearly warns its members not to disclose their votes for Academy Awards. Nevertheless I firmly believe that the film Zero Dark Thirty promotes the acceptance of the crime of torture, as a legitimate weapon in America’s so-called war on terror. In that belief, following my conscience, I will not vote for Zero Dark Thirty in any category… I cannot vote for a film that makes heroes of Americans who commit the crime of torture.”

The Academy’s rules about member conduct do not extend to the First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech, even if someone like Clennon invokes his voting intentions to make a political point. The only time a member can seriously jeopardize their Academy standing is if a member or someone involved in a competing film makes disparaging remarks about another competing film or person such as The Hurt Locker producer Nicholas Chartier did in 2010 when he sent multiple emails urging members not to vote for Avatar which was also a Best Picture nominee that year. The Academy revoked his tickets to the Oscars but ultimately did not take the step … 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 The New Yorker. In my opinion, no film reviewer should ever agree to embargoes because doing what the studios want is a slippery slope. It’s just a short hop to becoming part of Hollywood’s publicity machine. In this case, producer Scott Rudin is the biggest baby on the planet. (Remember how, when The Social Network began losing to The King’s Speech last awards season, he stopped attending every honoring ceremony including the Oscars? No class.) And Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Amy Pascal on the phone just now told me the studio has been “wrestling” with this since Friday night. Yet she couldn’t explain why these embargoes are even necessary or this villification of Denby, who happens to be my favorite film critic, is even warranted. I asked if the review is good. She answered that she’d heard it was. So what’s the problem? Heaven help us when the studios finally succeed in controlling all media… Here’s the letter which Sony sent out at 2 AM:

Dear Colleague,

All who attended screenings of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo agreed in writing to withhold reviews until closer to the date of the film’s worldwide release

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 directing the next movie based on Brown’s 2009 book The Lost Symbol which is a follow-up to the events described in Da Vinci Code. “He wanted to produce this one, not direct,” a Sony insider tells me. So Sony Pictures has started looking for a new helmer. Like the two other books made into films, this third one stars Tom Hanks as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. “Ron told Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton that he was not going to be directing Dan Brown’s novels anymore,” an insider tells me. “He just didn’t want to do that thing over and over, the same character and the same stories.” But if you look at Howard’s box office track record as a director since his Oscar-winner A Beautiful Mind (2001), the Dan Brown films were his most successful with such wide release movies as Missing, Cinderella Man, and The Dilemma all underperforming. He could use a surefire hit. After all, The Lost Symbol sold 1 million hardcovers and e-books in the U.S., the UK, and Canada on its first day, making it the fastest-selling adult novel in history.

Interestingly, Sony Pictures is making a Somali pirate drama starring Tom Hanks as … 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 gross commitment and also a guarantee the studio will greenlight the movie per Emmerich’s blueprint.
PREVIOUS: Studios are buzzing about a new Roland Emmerich science fiction script that puts the filmmaker back in his wheelhouse after he directed the period drama Anonymous. Details are scant, but the script has a working title: Singularity. Sony Pictures has first crack at the project, but I’m told no deal has yet been made. Other studios are waiting to see if that studio passes, but the last time Amy Pascal had a shot at an Emmerich spec package, 2012, the studio broke the bank to make a deal that gave Emmerich about 20% of first dollar gross. It became a big global hit with a $770 million worldwide gross. Emmerich has been a singularly successful commercial filmmaker when playing on this kind of stage, from Stargate to Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, the latter two he made for 20th Century Fox. Stay tuned.

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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 was my closest friend,” Pascal said. “She was an inspiring warrior who fought every battle, whether it was business or personal, with her trademark brains, guts, and class. She was the creative guiding light for all of us who loved and worked with her. She was also a frustrating perfectionist and that’s why she was simply the best. We are heartbroken and miss her terribly already – as a producer, as an advocate for cancer research, but most importantly, as an irreplaceable friend.”

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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 individuals in recent months has hit Sony Pictures as well. Yesterday afternoon a group of criminal hackers known as “LulzSec” claimed to have breached some of our websites. We have confirmed that a breach has occurred and have taken action to protect against further intrusion. We also retained a respected team of experts to conduct the forensic analysis of the attack, which is ongoing. In addition, we have contacted the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and are working with them to assist in the identification and apprehension of those responsible for this crime.

We deeply regret and apologize for any inconvenience caused to consumers by this cybercrime.”

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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 Gems, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Television. Gluck started his directing career at Screen Gems with Fired Up!, and after Easy A grossed north of $75 million, Screen Gems’ Clint Culpepper greenlit Friends With Benefits and bought another project to reteam Gluck with Emma Stone. Gluck is currently developing Sex On The Moon at Columbia Pictures for producers Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael DeLuca. Gluck started out in TV as a staffer for The John Larroquette Show and was a writing producer on several other sitcoms, so it’s conceivable that TV will be an important component in a deal negotiated by UTA.

I’d heard this deal was coming weeks ago, and waited for the studio to announce it through Deadline with Sony toppers Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, and Screen Gems president Culpepper. Pascal called Gluck “an extraordinary talent who has a unique comedic voice. He has now directed three films for us, and each one was distinctive and contemporary. He writes and directs movies that are timeless, hilarious, engaging and disarming. Michael, Clint and I have loved working with him, and this deal will allow him to channel his energy in any creative direction he hopes to pursue.”

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