Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Rothman just announced that Sanford Panitch has been appointed president of Columbia Pictures. He will replace Doug Belgrad, who is exiting his post in July to kick off a multiyear production and finance pact at Sony. Panitch worked with Rothman at Fox and was the founder and president of Fox International Productions there, and he was the first hire when Rothman got the Sony top job. In his new role Panitch will report to Rothman.
Panitch joined Sony in June 2015 as president of International Film & Television. It was a new role tasked with overseeing a new International Production Group, with the aim to produce local-language film content in more than 10 countries. He will continue in that role as well.
The replacement for Belgrad was expected to happen quickly.
“This is an exciting day,” said Rothman in the announcement. “We are moving forward to shape the new Columbia Pictures. I have worked with Sanford for over 15 years and my confidence in him is absolute. His big film background and international expertise fits exactly with our expanded global emphasis and ambitions. He is ready to go and Columbia, which has a burgeoning slate, will not miss a beat.”
Panitch had also been president of Filmed Entertainment at New Regency and EVP Production at 20th Century Fox where he was the executive on Titanic. In his time there he also oversaw titles including Mr And Mrs Smith, Seven, Alvin & The Chipmunks and Fight Club among others.
“I am honored to be given the opportunity to help run one of Hollywood’s most storied and iconic labels,” said Panitch. “With the growth of International, the need to produce content with broad global appeal for Columbia Pictures has never been more important. For me there is no line between domestic and international, we are in a global industry. Doug is one of the great executives, and has been a fantastic colleague, and I am looking forward to continue to work with him during the transition and in his new company.”
Belgrad, who spent 27 years as a Columbia Pictures executive and has been a senior exec since 2002 when he became co-president of production with Matt Tolmach, will transition from the post and finish his run as an executive with the release of the Paul Feig-directed Ghostbusters. Rumors of his departure had been in the air for months, and Rothman said he implored Belgrad to stay as they hammered out a Sony slate that for Columbia includes Passengers, Jumanji, The Equalizer 2 and The Dark Tower among others.