Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony Pictures Entertainment, is retiring. This comes as no surprise as Bruer had been talking about stepping back for a long while. What is surprising is that Bruer has only worked at one company in his lifetime — he began in the mailroom at Columbia Pictures in 1977 and moved into distribution a year later in the New Orleans office. During his 40 years, he had survived many management changeovers — at least seven going back to the David Begelman days.
Bruer stayed at Columbia for nine years and then moved over to TriStar as their western district manager — and then western division manager — at a time when such pictures as Peggy Sue Got Married, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Steel Magnolias and Bugsy were being released.
When Columbia and TriStar merged under chairman John Calley in 1994, Bruer became western division manager for both labels under Sony Pictures. That’s when distribution honcho Jeff Blake promoted him to general sales manager – right around the time The Quick and the Dead was being released. Three months before the first Spider-Man opened in May of 2002, Bruer was made president of distribution under Blake. Then eight years ago, he was named president of worldwide distribution.
“I love it today as much as when I started,” Bruer told Deadline. “I will always love being a part of this studio and am so fortunate be able to be able to continue as part of the Sony family while also pursuing my charitable endeavors and just having some kick-back fun. It’s been a great ride. It’s been incredible. The relationships here are very familial and I sincerely appreciate the people I’ve worked with through all of these years for maintaining that kind of working environment.”
The affable Bruer has been involved in bringing to market literally hundreds of films during his long career. He had been responsible for overseeing domestic sales for all of the studio’s releases including the Spider-Man and James Bond franchises as well as some of the smaller films which ended up as significantly profitable hits such as District 9, Courageous and Heaven is for Real. In fact, it is known that he helped to bring faith-based films (such as Courageous) into the mainstream studio system for distribution.
Adrian Smith and Steven O’Dell are immediately stepping in to fill the void in the executive ranks left by Bruer. They will continue to report to Josh Greenstein, who has been president of worldwide marketing and distribution since 2014.
The news to the staff just was sent out in an internal email from Greenstein:
I want to share with you an important change happening in the Motion Picture Group at Sony Pictures.
Rory Bruer, our friend and colleague, has decided to retire at the end of this year. Fortunately for us, retirement for Rory doesn’t mean goodbye – he will segue into an advisory role exclusive to Sony as he shares his time between his family here and his family at home.
Rory is an industry legend. He has been part of the studio for 40 years and has worked for one company his entire career, a rarity in this day and age. He started in the mailroom and rose through the ranks to head up Domestic Distribution since 2002 and Worldwide Distribution since 2008.
All told, Rory has been involved in the distribution of nearly 1,000 releases and helped more than 100 films reach #1 at the box office, including the industry’s first ever $100 million weekend with the first Spider-Man in 2002.
The sheer number of movies he’s helped to make a success is incredible. From Kramer vs. Kramer, Stripes, Steel Magnolias, Terminator 2, Hook, and Places in the Heart to such global blockbusters as Spider-Man 1, 2 & 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2, the four most recent James Bond adventures (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Spectre), The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons, Sausage Party, Hotel Transylvania 1 and 2, 21 and 22 Jump Street, The Equalizer, Heaven Is for Real, Grown Ups 1 and 2, This Is the End, Men in Black 1, 2 and 3, Captain Phillips, American Hustle, 2012, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network, The Smurfs, District 9, The Karate Kid and countless others.
I am grateful to have worked with Rory from the moment I joined the studio, and it’s great to know that we will continue to work together on our studio’s most important projects.
Leading the department as we move forward, Adrian Smith and Steven O’Dell will continue oversight of their divisions, reporting to me. I’m proud of the work they have done both domestically and internationally, and I know that their teams are in good hands as Steven and Adrian lead us into this next chapter.
See a personal note below from Rory to all of you.
When I joined Columbia Pictures in 1977, I would never have believed what the future could hold for me. It has been the privilege of my life to work with all of you and with so many talented filmmakers, helping to bring their amazing work to so many people.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Tom and Josh. Though I knew in my heart that the time was right to begin to pull back, it’s hard to let go of a place that has been a part of my life for so long – so when they asked me to stay on as an advisor, I jumped at the chance. Not everybody gets to begin this next chapter on their own terms, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
To my team in Distribution – it has been an honor and a pleasure to work alongside all of you. If I have a legacy at this studio, let it be that I’ve had a hand in helping to build the best team in the business.
I could not be more excited about the future for me personally, for the great times to come at SPE, and most of all, for the great movies that are on their way. It’s like I always say – and it’s never been more true – the best is yet to come!