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Sony Replaces Amy Pascal with Ex-Fox Exec Tom Rothman

Sony Replaces Amy Pascal with Ex-Fox Exec Tom Rothman

Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton has wasted no time in picking a high-powered replacement for departing Amy Pascal. Ex-Fox executive Tom Rothman is now the next Chairman of SPE’s Motion Picture Group.

After Rothman left Fox Filmed Entertainment, where he ran the movie studio for over a decade (2000-2012) with current chairman Jim Gianopulos, Pascal brought him to Sony as Chairman of TriStar Productions in late 2013; where he has already assembled an impressive slate. Bob Zemeckis’s feature on Philippe Petit, “The Walk,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is heading for awards season release. Rothman will now be charged with managing some heavy hitter talent: not only Pascal (who he worked with in the late 80s at Columbia), who will be producing Paul Feig’s women-targeted “Ghostbusters” reboot, Angelina Jolie’s “Cleopatra,” and the latest “Spider-Man” in league with Marvel, but ex-Warner Bros. chairman Jeff Robinov, who is now ramping up his independently financed company Studio 8.

In a statement, Lynton stressed “Tom’s creativity, strong talent relationships and track record of enduring films and commercial success…Tom knows this business inside and out like few others do.” All true. He is also known for being a tough-minded, hands-on creative executive who can run roughshod on filmmakers in order to keep the bottom line under control on such franchises as the “X-Men.” There’s no question that he is less talent-friendly than Pascal, who tended to defer to movie stars and A-list directors. Rothman also takes chances on not necessarily commercial projects such as “Master and Commander” and “Moulin Rouge.”  During his tenure he and Gianopulos racked up $40 billion in worldwide box office (thanks to such James Cameron global blockbusters as “Avatar”) and more than 150 Academy Award nominations. Rothman has taste–he helped to bring Fox Searchlight into its current prominence, along with Fox exec Peter Rice. But in a climate where Sony is trying to pull back spending, Rothman is their man. President Doug Belgrad, who went after the job with Pascal’s support, is expected to stay.

Many wondered if Rothman still had a yen for running a studio. He obviously knows how. That’s not the issue. Sony obviously made it worth his while. “I am thrilled at this rare opportunity to lead the Motion Picture Group at such an exciting and transformative time for the studio,” said Rothman.

Read: Sony Gives Amy Pascal an Exit Deal

Rothman will report to Lynton, who will continue as Chairman and CEO of SPE, but Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Television, who reported to Pascal, will now report to Lynton, whose contract as Chairman and CEO of SPE and as CEO of Sony Entertainment has been extended.

Lynton oversees Sony’s global entertainment businesses (Sony Music Entertainment, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and SPE). Rothman will oversee Sony’s movie activities worldwide, working with Pascal to ensure a smooth transition. TriStar’s slate of films includes Jonathan Demme’s “Ricki and the Flash,” starring Meryl Streep as an older rock star, Ang Lee’s follow-up to “Life of Pi,”  post-war drama “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” and Jodie Foster’s thriller “Money Monster,” starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney.

Rothman had taken the best possible route for a former studio chief: he found a well-funded new home where he could make big movies with freedom and autonomy. Now he has to take on again all the stress and ego concerns and power-mongering that climbing up the studio ladder demands. At Fox Rothman essentially ran production while Gianopulos kept a closer eye on managing the studio and the bottom line–Michael Lynton’s role. Gianopulos brought in DreamWorks and one-time Universal chief Stacey Snider to fill Rothman’s shoes at Fox. 
What is not clear is how Lynton and Rothman are handling the TriStar deal; he had put some of his own skin in the game and was to develop, finance and produce motion pictures and television programming for worldwide distribution through Sony Pictures. Sony provided some financing for the new entity and retained all distribution rights worldwide; Rothman maintained an equity interest in the venture. 

Sony is emulating the Label structure that is working so well at Disney and Fox, where Rothman worked closely with Fox 2000’s Elizabeth Gabler and Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula. Columbia is the Sony label for in-house productions; Rothman will also supervise Sony Pictures Animation, while Clint Culpepper runs his fiefdom at Screen Gems and New York-based Michael Barker and Tom Bernard run the autonomous Sony Pictures Classics. Steven Bersch is president of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, which will still use the TriStar Pictures banner for pick-ups.

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