NYTimes reports that Amy Pascal will have a "four-year production deal that will involve her making some of Sony’s biggest planned films." The all-female Ghostbusters remake is evidently one of them, but there's also a good chance that Cleopatra, a long-time passion project of hers that's finally inching closer to production, could be another. It will be interesting to see if Pascal takes over from Scott Rudin or if Rudin manages to stay in the picture as a co-producer.
Amy Pascal Lands in Sony’s Outbox
LOS ANGELES — Amy Pascal, an old-style studio chief who was undercut by new Hollywood economics and bruised by the airing of private emails in a devastating cyberattack, said on Thursday that she would resign her post as the top film executive at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Ms. Pascal had been in contract renewal talks for months, well before hackers in December made available private correspondence in which she made denigrating remarks about President Obama’s presumed preference for black-themed movies.
She profusely apologized, and top studio executives stood behind her in the aftermath. But the pressures of the hacking crisis, coupled with structural changes at the studio, made alternatives to renewing her contract more attractive.
She will leave her positions as co-chairwoman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairwoman of Sony’s motion picture group in May, the studio said, and accept a four-year production deal that will involve her making some of Sony’s biggest planned films.
For the moment, her resignation consolidates power over Sony’s film operation under Michael Lynton, chief executive of Sony Entertainment. He is expected to decide in the next few months whether any successor will precisely match Ms. Pascal’s role, or will function differently at a studio that has been cutting costs and shifting focus toward both television and global crowd pleasers driven by special effects.
She was neither pushed to leave nor begged to stay, and Ms. Pascal’s decision to move on crystallized over the last two weeks, said people briefed on the matter, as Sony offered the producing deal as an option. She also came to a realization, perhaps long overdue, that her romantic notion of the movie industry — built around stars and stories — no longer fit with new realities.
Ms. Pascal also went through a draining month of turmoil within Sony as studio leaders struggled to cope with a hacking that crippled the company’s computers and exposed personal data about its employees. Known to be a fiery counterpart to the more reserved Mr. Lynton, Ms. Pascal was particularly distressed by the assault, exhibiting both anger and tearful regret before Sony employees.
Often identified as the film industry’s top female executive, Ms. Pascal is the only senior Sony manager to leave her position since the hacking attack. Though she received a lucrative and prestigious next job, her departure may invite further scrutiny of an industry often criticized for a dearth of women in leading positions.
Ms. Pascal, 56, has been with Sony continuously since 1996, when she became president of its Columbia Pictures unit after serving as production president of Turner Pictures. Before joining Turner, she had worked at Sony since 1988.
“I have spent almost my entire professional life at Sony Pictures, and I am energized to be starting this new chapter based at the company I call home,” she said in a statement. Mr. Lynton and Ms. Pascal declined to elaborate on the announcement.
Stephen G. Ujlaki, dean of the film school at Loyola Marymount University, noted that Ms. Pascal had proved herself a nimble survivor over the years. “She did a great pivot early on,” he said, adding that Ms. Pascal had once focused on women’s films but turned sharply toward popular hits like the “Spider-Man” series as she chased bigger audiences.
While some details are unclear, the broad terms of her new deal are breathtaking. Several people briefed on Ms. Pascal’s exit said it involved a four-year guarantee of $30 million to $40 million. Her package additionally includes a percentage of profits on movies she produces and millions of dollars for annual office costs and discretionary acquisition of scripts.
In a drive to enhance profitability, Mr. Lynton has been cutting staff and shuffling executives, squeezing Ms. Pascal, who for years had governed Sony’s film unit without serious challenge. He recently promoted Doug Belgrad to the presidency of Sony’s film operation — in effect giving Mr. Lynton a lieutenant with film expertise, should he choose to supervise filmmaking without Ms. Pascal.
Ms. Pascal joined Mr. Lynton in mentoring executives who may now stand in line for her duties, including the former DreamWorks executive Michael De Luca; Thomas E. Rothman, the former chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment who is now in charge of Sony’s TriStar division; and the former Warner studio chief Jeff Robinov, who came to Sony as a producer with substantial outside funding.
At the same time, she was pressed by strategic changes that came with the retirement of a strong supporter, Howard Stringer, as the chief executive of Sony Corporation. With Mr. Stringer’s exit, the studio tightened costs and looked to focus even more heavily on the franchise and fantasy films that have sustained competitors like Warner and Disney.
Then in November came the devastating hacking attack that over the course of several weeks made public huge amounts of data and information about Sony and its employees, including personal emails.
Of those, Ms. Pascal’s were the most embarrassing, including a disparaging back-and-forth with the producer Scott Rudin about Angelina Jolie and a Steve Jobs biopic, and another exchange with Mr. Rudin about Mr. Obama’s supposed movie preferences.
Both exchanges became fodder for gossip sites, trade publications and mainstream news organizations, and for a time made Ms. Pascal the public face of a company dealing with a humiliating crisis.
Eventually, North Korea was identified by the United States government as having precipitated the attack, in an attempt to stop the release of Sony’s provocative comedy “The Interview,” which lampooned the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Through it all, Ms. Pascal pushed for the movie to be released.
In fact, “The Interview,” which featured one of her favorite stars, Seth Rogen, was of a piece with her penchant for ambitious and inventive movies that traded on relationships with stars and filmmakers like Will Smith, Adam McKay and Adam Sandler. When those stars and moviemakers were hot, so was Ms. Pascal.
In 2006, Sony topped the domestic box office, with hits like Mr. Sandler’s “Click.” In 2012, Sony was on top again, with matching blockbusters from its two principal film franchises: “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and “Skyfall,” from a James Bond series that it shared with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
But Sony faltered when Ms. Pascal’s favorites slipped. In 2013, the studio ranked fourth at the domestic box office, and suffered a particular embarrassment as Mr. Smith, the most reliable star in its stable, took in just $60.5 million in domestic ticket sales with “After Earth,” an expensive science-fiction thriller.
Last year was again wobbly, thanks to the relatively soft performance of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which underperformed its predecessors.
For more than a year, talk in Hollywood buzzed with speculation about the fate of Ms. Pascal, whose output has included Oscar contenders like “The Social Network” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” and who is popular with writers, directors, stars and their agents.
But she has been under pressure to spend less, make fewer films and deliver more consistently at the box office.
The talk reached fever pitch in 2013, when the investor Daniel S. Loeb took an investment stake in the Sony Corporation, and began pressing, among other positions, for an overhaul of its film operation.
While Mr. Loeb eventually backed off, Mr. Lynton joined Ms. Pascal in a retooling that eventually saw the departure of executives including the studio’s vice chairman Jeff Blake, who had overseen the marketing and distribution of films.