UPDATE, 9:10 AM: The studio has just confirmed that Amy Pascal is stepping down from her position as co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of the Motion Picture Group, and that she will launch a new production venture at the studio. Pascal will transition to the new venture in May.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 8:56 AM: Sources tell me that a shakeup at the top of Sony Pictures Entertainment will happen this morning. I’m hearing that Amy Pascal will exit as longtime leader of the studio.
I’m hearing that Amy Pascal’s exit will be announced this morning. It’s unclear about who would succeed her. There has been a lot of chatter lately surrounding Doug Belgrad, who now has the title of President, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group and President, Columbia Pictures. The studio also has a deep bench of proven studio heads including TriStar’s Tom Rothman, production president Mike DeLuca and Jeff Robinov at Studio 8.
Pascal has a solid track record as a talent- and filmmaker-friendly studio head and she has lasted longer than most do. There had been speculation she might transition, but clearly this all has been hastened by the devastating cyber attack on the studio by North Korea over Sony’s The Interview.
Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures and chairman of the Motion Picture Group, has been at the forefront of the hack attack scandal pretty much from the beginning, after the massive breach of company data was first revealed on November 24. Among the troves of documents made public by the hacking group were racially insensitive emails between Pascal and producer Scott Rudin about President Obama. In the private exchange, the two joked that the President’s favorite films are black-themed movies like Django Unchained and 12 Years A Slave.
After the emails were revealed, Pascal met with the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton to quell anger over what Sharpton “cultural blindness” displayed in the emails.
“I am mostly disappointed in myself,” Pascal told Deadline after she later broke her media silence on the matter. “That is the element of this that has been most painful for me. I don’t want to be defined by these emails, after a 30-year career; I was even willing to let it all happen. But I’m just not going to do that now. Clearly, there are things that you say in a rash moment without thinking them through, and it takes 10 seconds to say something stupid. When it’s blasted and it might become the way you are defined as a human being, I have to say it. It’s just wrong. It’s wrong about me. And it’s wrong to do to anyone.”
In the midst of the email uproar, Pascal and Lynton were faced with what to do post-hack with The Interview, the Sony comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen that revolved around two reporters charged with assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jung-un. The hackers claimed the plot was the reason for the cyber attack. Sony’s tough decision to pull the movie from its theatrical release on Christmas Day was met with backlash for giving in to terrorist demands, and the studio was even publicly chided by Obama, who said the decision to stop the film’s release was a mistake.
Sony eventually backtracked on releasing The Interview after a group of indie theaters said they would show it beginning on Christmas Day — the larger exhibs and multiplexes had too much exposure to show the pic, and the new rollout plan included a digital day-and-date release on platforms including YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and Sony’s own dedicated website. That eventually expanded to include services like cable VOD, Sony’s Crackle and Netflix.
As of January 18 the movie had grossed more $40 million in cable, satellite, telecom and online VOD sales, and $6 million to date since its limited theatrical bow.